A ground built for rugby that once hosted a World Cup epic has drawn Australia’s attention ahead of a clash with India.
The “odd” dimensions of Eden Park in Auckland, lower than normal lights and a single drop-in in pitch have added extra elements of intrigue to a contest Australian coach Matthew Mott says could set up his team’s World Cup.
Australia will tackle India in the first match of the tournament at the quirky venue used primarily as a rugby ground, and captain Meg Lanning quizzed ground staff on some of the tactics used by the locals in a bid to understand its nuances.
Boundaries are short but that doesn’t mean high scores, as the famous World Cup clash between Australia and New Zealand in 2015, when the Kiwis chased down 158 with just one wicket to spare, proved.
Mott said the clash with India, the only team to beat Australia in its past 35 ODIs, a win that came in Mackay last September, had come at the right time for his side that is “rolling with some confidence” after four straight World Cup wins.
He refuted any suggestion the team was still boasting a burning desire to avenge their 2017 tournament exit at the hands of India and instead said the importance of the match for this World Cup campaign couldn’t be understated.
“It’s a non-event internally,” Mott said of 2017.
“This is an opportunity to put our case forward for the semi-finals, which is what we came 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, then we can dictate our terms for the finals. There’s a lot to play for.
“The last thing on our mind is what happened five years ago. We are just determined to make every match count.”
India lost to previously winless England on Wednesday and have a 2-2 record, needing a victory to keep their semi-final ambitions on track.
But the move to Auckland from Wellington, where Australia has won its past two matches, has demanded extra attention to detail.
Mott said catching practice under the Eden Park lights was a new experience and the new venue could bring the teams closer together than their results suggest they are.
“It’s a busy ground, I was hitting nicks for the catching group and we did struggle,” Mott said.
“It’s not just the short boundaries, it’s an odd shape. There are some little pockets where the batters were surveying the area. The groundsmen gave Meg (Lanning) a few thing on how the domestic players play here. We’ve got a few little things up our sleeve and hope we can execute.
“Both teams have to deal with it and we hope we adapt better than them.”
Mott said the Australians were at full strength for the clash and needed to be confronting what he called a “dangerous side”.
“It’s a good time to play India. I see them as an incredibly dangerous side,” he said.
“We are rolling with some confidence at the moment, but as we always say, it’s this game in isolation and everything we are talking about is how we can combat India. They just keep coming with genuine match winners.
“It’s a game we have to be at our very, very best, then we will reset for the next one.”