ICC: Mandhana – Playing Australia fires me up

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Photo Credit: ICC

India batter Smriti Mandhana admitted playing against Australia ignites a fire inside her ahead of a repeat of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2017 semi-final at Eden Park on Saturday.

Five years ago, India beat Australia by 36 runs to make the final and they need another victory this time around to keep alive their hopes of progressing to the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 semi-finals.

Convincing wins over Pakistan and the West Indies have been marred by equally emphatic defeats to hosts New Zealand and reigning champions England, with India unable to guarantee their place in the last four if they suffer any further slip-ups.

Opener Mandhana has made a blistering start to the tournament, racking up 216 runs at an average of 54, and is relishing the prospect of coming up against the unbeaten favourites.

“I don’t really know what gets the best out of me against Australia, but I think they’re a really competitive team,” said the 25-year-old.

“And sometimes when the bowlers are going hard on you and I’m not an aggressive person by nature, but, somewhere inside me, there is an instinct where I want to really do well and get back at them with the bat.

“That’s something which maybe really motivates me against Australia and it’s a very important game tomorrow, so I hope I can contribute against them.”

After Harmanpreet Kaur’s blistering unbeaten 171 off 115 balls knocked Australia out of the last World Cup, you could be forgiven for thinking India may have a psychological edge on the big stage but both camps insist the events of that dramatic day in Derby will play no part.

“Well, for us it’s a non-event internally,” said Australia coach Matthew Mott in Auckland. “We’re just looking forward to another match.

“It’s an opportunity to put our case forward for the semi-finals, which is what we’ve come here to do. Everyone seems to be beating everyone at the moment, so to get out in front with another win would be a huge advantage and then we can sort of dictate our own terms on the finals.

“Literally, the last thing on our mind is what happened five years ago, so we’re just really determined to make every match count.”

Mandhana concurred and instead pointed to her side’s impressive displays during the three-match series on their 2021 tour Down Under which although India narrowly lost 2-1, could easily have gone either way.

She added: “Everyone knows what happened in 2017 but I think it’s better that we don’t really think about it. It’s going to be a fresh day.

“More than 2017, we definitely had a word about how we went about in the series against Australia when we were touring Australia [last year] and the kind of cricket we played there and the kind of bowling we did there.

“So that’s something which we have had discussions around. And something which has given a lot of confidence to all the players because we have done well in the recent past against them.”

Mott praised India for having “one of the best new-ball bowling attacks in the world” and fittingly the leader of that attack Jhulan Goswami, 39, will make her 200th ODI appearance against Australia.

Having already celebrated her 250th ODI wicket during what is her fifth World Cup, seamer Goswami will become just the second woman to make 200 appearances after her captain Mithali Raj and Mandhana is delighted to be a part of a record-breaking day for her teammate.

She said: “I think it’s a proud moment for all of us for Jhulu Di to play her 200th match and for us to be a part of the history she’s going to make.

“I think it’s an amazing feat for her and I think for a pace bowler to play for that many years and to be playing in 200 matches is something incredible and that’s all thanks to her work ethic.

“She’s motivated everyone and I’m sure tomorrow is going to be another day she’s going to be a motivation for all of us here as well as back home all the girls who are watching on TV.”

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