Ahead of their first Asia Cup 2022 clash with Sri Lanka on Saturday, India captain Harmanpreet Kaur put her weight behind young opening batter Shafali Verma, who has been struggling for form in recent times.

Shafali scored a total of 60 runs across the three T20 Internationals and ODIs in England this month, looking tentative at the crease and getting clean bowled a number of times. The right-hander, when at her best, is a big asset for the Indian team and she has the backing of her skipper for now.

“She [Shafali] has been doing well in the nets. If we talk about her performance, it’s part of life,” said Harmanpreet in a media interaction on Friday.

“Sometimes you can’t replicate your good touch on the field. In the nets, she’s looking really, really good. I think it’s just about spending some time at the crease, you can always get your form back once that lean patch is behind you. She’s working hard every day and I think the Asia Cup is a great platform for her to play freely. We’ll try to give her enough match-time so that she can get her confidence back.”

Looking ahead at the Asia Cup, the skipper said the tournament serves a good opportunity to give players enough game-time. This will be the eighth edition of the women’s Asia Cup, with India having won the tournament the first six times. In the previous edition, they lost to Bangladesh in the final.

“Our first target will be to give enough chances to players who haven’t got much game-time,” said Harmanpreet.

“We want to work on things like batting in the first six overs, if someone else gets a chance they can perform too. Even in the middle and death overs, we could shuffle the order and give chances to as many batters. In bowling too, we will try different combinations. This tournament is very important for us, it gives a platform for more players to get chances and gain confidence. So yes, there are areas we want to work on.”

Harmanpreet also gave an update on batter Jemimah Rodrigues, who missed the England tour due to rehab for a wrist injury at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru.

“Jemi is back, she is fit and fine. She batted in the nets today and looked absolutely fine to me. I think she’s fit,” said the skipper.

There will be seven teams competing in Asia Cup 2022, with the matches being played in the T20 format. Each team will play the other six teams once and the top four teams at the end will qualify for the semifinals.

India will begin their campaign against Sri Lanka on Saturday. They will then play Malaysia (October 3) and UAE (October 4) on successive days before taking on Pakistan on October 7. They then face hosts Bangladesh on October 8, followed by their last game of the round-robin stage against Thailand on October 10. The final is scheduled to take place on October 15.

India’s squad for Asia Cup 2022: Harmanpreet Kaur (captain), Smriti Mandhana (vice-captain), Deepti Sharma, Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues, S Meghana, Richa Ghosh (wicket-keeper), Sneh Rana, D Hemalatha, Meghna Singh, Renuka Thakur, Pooja Vastrakar, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Radha Yadav, Kiran Prabhu Navgire.

Standby players: Taniyaa Sapna Bhatia, Simran Dil Bahadur.

India lost the recent T20I series in England 1-2 but went on to sweep the three-match ODI series. In what was the farewell series for legendary pacer Jhulan Goswami, India delivered a memorable performance to claim their first ODI series win in England since 1999.

Jhulan Goswami: The pacer with a big heart, a guardian angel, a giant who towered over the rest

“We were only looking to play good cricket in England and didn’t put any pressure on ourselves to win,” said Harmanpreet. “Our practice sessions were very calculated and we knew exactly what we were doing. Everything was planned. We didn’t think about creating history and simply focussed on what we had to do. When you work hard and have plans in place, the results do follow. So we weren’t surprised by what we achieved.”

The Indian team has had an impressive few months in international cricket, having won the silver medal at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games earlier. The skipper said that planning well and playing as a unit have helped the team.

“In the last couple of months, there has been great unity in the team with everyone helping each other,” said the 33-year-old. “We just need to continue that because it’s bringing us results. Watching videos together of our opponents and making plans has been very helpful to us.”

Harmanpreet herself has had a memorable year with the bat, She hit an epic 143* off 111 against England in the ODI series and has amassed a total of 754 runs in 16 one-dayers this year, with two centuries and five fifties. In T20Is in 2022, she has scored hit two half-centuries with an average of 36.87.

“I have always enjoyed taking responsibility ever since I started playing. And getting to lead the Indian team is the biggest responsibility, which I am enjoying the most,” said Harmanpreet.

“I even receive great support from the players and team management and you always get good results if you work as a team. You just need support to achieve anything. My focus is only on my performance and to support my teammates.”

Deepti Sharma’s run out of Charlie Dean in Lord’s ODI: Why all the fuss (again)?

Harmanpreet even spoke about the Deepti Sharma run-out of Charlie Dean in the third ODI against England. The incident attracted immense scrutiny but the India captain stuck to what she had said after that match – that the Indian team did nothing outside the rules of the game.

“I think we have discussed the incident enough, we don’t need to do that again and again. It was part of the game and whatever happened has happened. We need to look forward now,” said Harmanpreet.

She added: “We were noticing it since the last few games, she was taking long strides and undue advantage at the non-striker’s end. I think it was Deepti’s awareness that she was noticing these things, and we all discussed it. It wasn’t in our plan that we would get her out like that. But we were there to win the game. Whenever you’re at the ground, you want to win at any cost. The most important thing is to play within the rules and we did that.”

All Asia Cup 2022 matches will be broadcast on the Star Sports Network and Hotstar app.