The Indian women's cricket team celebrate their win over Pakistan in the first match of the ICC Women's World Cup being held in New Zealand. (Photo: PTI)
Hamilton: Having pummelled arch-rivals Pakistan in a one-sided lung-opener, India will face an infinitely tougher challenge in hosts New Zealand and would endeavour to put up an improved batting show in their second ICC Women's World Cup league stage game here on Thursday.
The pitch at Hamilton's Seddon Park has been traditionally known as a batting belter and Mithali Raj and her team would like to put up a better show against Sophie Devine's White Ferns, who have had a great run in the recently concluded bilateral series.
More than the margin of the 1-4 defeat, it was the fact that Indians were outplayed in all departments must have been a cause of worry for head coach Ramesh Powar who has been trying out various combinations.
What looked like a cakewalk against a relatively weaker Pakistan side might not be possible against the New Zealanders, who have all bases covered.
In fact, the Indians have already learnt a harsh lesson in the preceding ODI series where they couldn't even defend totals of 270 and 280.
But Shafali Verma's return to form is something that the team management is looking forward to as senior pacer Jhulan Goswami said at the pre-match interaction.
In last seven games, including one practice match, there was only one fifty and six low scores from her.
"Shafali has already proved herself. She is a very exciting cricketer. But these things happen with every cricketer," Goswami said in a virtual press conference ahead of the game against New Zealand here on Thursday.
"I am sure she is working hard really well in the nets, she is batting well in the nets; she is hitting the ball really well.
"She is just one big knock away and if she gets an opportunity, I am sure she is going to do well," she added.
Even skipper Mithali got stuck against Pakistan while Harmanpreet Kaur, save for one half century in the inconsequential dead rubber against New Zealand, has bee off the boil.
India's problems have been often compounded by their inability to rotate the strike in the middle overs leaving way too much for the slog overs where often they haven't had power hitters.
Smriti Mandhana is the batting mainstay and a big score from her is what the 'Women in Blue' need on Thursday.
India's biggest strength is their all-rounders -- Deepti Sharma, Sneh Rana and Puja Vastrakar, who can convert a poor show into a brilliant final outcome.
However, against New Zealand, who have Devine, Suzie Bates, Amy Satherwaite and Amelia Kerr in their ranks, it won't be an easy job.
Goswami, who has been in terrific form over the past one year, needs support from the other end with a steady show from the likes of Meghna Singh and Vastrakar.
However, it will all boil down to how well the spinners -- Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Rana and Deepti bowl against the New Zealanders.
A good result will erase the nightmare of the recent ODI series.
India: Mithali Raj (c), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Harmanpreet Kaur, Yastika Bhatia, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Rich Ghosh (wk), Taniya Bhatia (wk), Sneh Rana, Meghna Singh, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Jhulan Goswami, Renuka Singh.
New Zealand: Sophie Devine (c), Amy Satterthwaite (vc), Suzie Bates, Maddy Green, Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen, Fran Jonas, Jess Kerr, Amelia Kerr, Frances Mackay, Rosemary Mair, Katey Martin, Georgia Plimmer, Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu.
Match starts at 6.30am IST.