Australia can't hide from the pressure in this World Cup

As a team we have high expectations of ourselves - if we don’t go into a tournament expecting to win, why are we even playing?

Pressure is a funny thing. I’d be lying if I said we weren’t feeling the pressure going into our second match of the World Cup against Sri Lanka. Our first game against India was not the way we wanted to start our campaign and we were all very aware that our tournament was riding on that next game. But I don’t think pressure is always a bad thing.

We know, for instance that getting the world record crowd that everyone is talking about at the MCG next Sunday really depends on us being there. We can’t hide from that. But crowd or no crowd, we’re already putting that pressure on ourselves to be in the final, because that’s why we’re playing in this World Cup. We have high expectations of ourselves – if we don’t go into a tournament expecting to win, why are we even playing?

I don’t mind admitting that there were some nerves in the first game. But when we walked off after India’s innings, I know I felt really confident. I wasn’t happy with my own performance, but as a team I felt we bowled well and I knew our batters had the ability to chase that score down.

The nerves started to ramp up as more wickets fell. We’d been in that situation in the past and our middle order has been able to dig us out of trouble, but this time we just weren’t adjusting to Poonam Yadav.

I think it was a really smart move by India not using her in the tri-series We should have been ready for her, she’s caused us trouble in the past and our batters tried to prepare in the nets, but nothing really replicates that dip and the height she comes from. They didn’t give us a good look at her before the World Cup and that worked for them.

And then we came up against Sri Lanka and we still weren’t playing the free cricket that I know we’re capable of. The pressure was on and we weren’t responding to it in the best way. One of our team tag lines is ‘fearless’ and we didn’t play fearless cricket in that game. The fear of losing got to us and we couldn’t put together a convincing win.

But the fact that we came from a position where we were three down with only 21 runs from the powerplay and we were able to grind out a win, that was something we were really proud of. We knew we didn’t play our best and when the game ended, we were feeling relief more than anything that we’d kept our tournament alive. But once we had time to process, we were happy with the result and the way we’d responded to the pressure and turned the game around.

That happiness within the camp has fuelled us. It was no coincidence that our top order fired against Bangladesh in Canberra. The whole mood of the squad has lifted and we were all feeling really happy that day.

It helps that we had never played Bangladesh before. We didn’t know what to expect and we liked that. As a bowler I have plans for how I’m going to bowl to teams like New Zealand and England that we come up against all the time. But playing Bangladesh was going into the unknown and it made it really fresh and exciting. I think it re-energised all of us.

That said, our next challenge is New Zealand – our old foe from over the ditch. I’m not sure about anyone else in the team, but I’m approaching it like a quarter final. It’s do or die and I need to acknowledge that in my preparations.

Ideally we would have already qualified for the finals by now, but the fact that it’s going to come down to this last pool match is a good reflection of where international women’s cricket is at. It’s not just the same four teams going through the motions to make the semi finals. We all have to fight our way in and that’s fantastic for our sport.

The pressure is not going to ease up from here. The further we get, the more people will be watching and expecting us to perform. Personally, I really enjoy the fact that people are critical of us. Five years ago, a lot of those people weren’t watching enough women’s sport to even have an opinion. But now they’re invested enough in our team to want to have their say and I think that’s amazing.

This World Cup has been a rollercoaster ride – three games in and we’ve already been thrown into every scenario we could imagine. It may not have been the ideal start, but it has prepared us for anything. The pressure is on. But now, we’re ready for it.

Contributor

Megan Schutt

The GuardianTramp

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