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Ind vs Aus – Troy Cooley on Renuka Singh and Pooja Vastrakar: ‘Their work ethic is through the roof’

Renuka Singh has 38 wickets in women’s T20Is, at an average of 21.13. Since her debut in October 2021, only Ireland’s Arlene Kelly has taken more among fast bowlers from Full-Member teams. Also among the top ten is Pooja Vastrakar, who has picked up 21 wickets in this period, at 24.80.

Renuka and Vastrakar were India’s fast bowlers in the one-off Test against England last week and picked up a combined six wickets in the match. Bowling coach Troy Cooley has praised their work ethic and lauded them for broadening their skillsets.

“[Renuka] is definitely improving every time I see her,” Cooley said after India’s training session at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday. “She is coming from a couple of injuries and she has worked extremely hard to not only develop fitness but also to develop her skills. You are starting to see rewards now of all that hard work. Not only does she swing the ball back in naturally. She has now got the ball that straightens and leaves the right-handers.”

Renuka had been sidelined with a stress injury since the end of WPL 2023. The T20Is against England earlier this month were her first international outings on her return, and she impressed with her new-ball spells. She dismissed England opener Sophia Dunkley all three times in the T20Is and also in the first innings of the Test, and used the bowling crease well to create angles that tested the batters.

“It is great to see her using the angles,” Cooley said. “I really like the way she is putting together the sequence of deliveries and the number of deliveries she has got in option. Her toolbox is quite big now and [she] is definitely using those tools in a strategic and tactical way.”

Vastrakar, who made her international debut in 2018, was riddled with injuries at the start of her career. But for the last couple of years, she has been a vital cog in India’s white-ball squads. She was named as a non-travelling reserve for the Asian Games this year, but made it to the squad after Anjali Sarvani pulled up on the eve of departure, and starred in the final with a four-for to help India to a gold medal.

In the Test match, Vastrakar used the wobble seam and hard lengths to dismantle England’s top order, including bowling Nat Sciver-Brunt through the gate for a first-ball duck in the second dig. Cooley attributed her success to a balanced run-up and attacking lines.

“She had a little bit of a sore knee and she came back through that nicely,” Cooley said. “Through rehab she dedicated herself to improve her run-up and get the most out of it. She has done a marvellous job there. Now she is more balanced at the crease.

“You can see the natural tendency now to get into the stumps and challenge those batters. She has got her run-up sorted which is great from a bowling coach [persepective] here. She has got enough pace and variations to be a good red-ball bowler.”

In their return to Test cricket after two years – and at home after nine years – India bowled out England for 136 and 131 at the DY Patil Stadium with offspinner Deepti Sharma picking up nine wickets in the match. The fast bowlers held their own even when they didn’t make inroads, adding to the pressure on England’s batters. Cooley said the bowlers have not only added more variations to their armoury but also know when to use them.

“I know behind the scenes what work they are putting in and the growth has been in line with the work they have done,” he said. “The biggest improvement is they have added some skills and variations. Not only that, but the control and when to use them, that’s come into it quite nicely.

“The strategy behind what ball they are going to use – whether to attack or defend – we talk about talking to the ball now and they are getting some good answers back. They are improving very well, there is still more room to go but they are up for it, and they have got the work ethic to be able to do that.

“They have got the support of the captain [Harmanpreet Kaur] and the new head coach [Amol Muzumdar] – he is hell bent that everybody who comes into training or in games is about improving themselves. There are a couple of World Cups coming up and he wants to see improvements all the way and we have got a good environment for that under his leadership.”

The fast bowlers put in hard yards behind the scenes even during the domestic T20s, Cooley said, and he felt this would hold them in good stead during India’s upcoming home series against Australia.

“These girls have been doing extra work in the last two-three months,” he said. “Their work ethic is through the roof. They may be playing the domestic T20s but in the back they’ll be topping up their work to make sure their resilience and capacity to go into Test-match cricket and to survive international cricket is building up all the way. Full credit to the medical team, the coaching staff and S&C [strength and conditioning] staff who got together and made these plans and worked towards them.”

Punia called up as back-up for Shubha

Priya Punia was seen batting for a long time in India’s first training session ahead of the one-off Test against Australia. She batted against a healthy dose of fast bowling and spin after starting with throwdowns for about 20 minutes. Shubha Satheesh, who top-scored with 69 on debut against England, was not to be seen.

Shubha was ruled out of the rest of the game after taking a blow to her left ring finger while training before the start of the second day’s play. She was seen with a splint on her left hand and Harmanpreet confirmed after the match that she had suffered a broken finger and a dislocation.

Cooley confirmed that Punia had been called up in case a replacement was needed.

“No update on Shubha, the medical team would have got hold of that,” he said. “It is very sad for us to see after she batted so well to get a knock on that finger. We are hoping it will heal quickly. The replacement player is coming in just in case. [Punia is a] very good player, the squad balance and strength is still there. We’ll miss [Shubha] if she is not available.”

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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