Harmanpreet Kaur-led India will return to action after a month as the T20 International tri-series involving hosts South Africa and West Indies begins at the Buffalo Park in East London on Thursday as a precursor to the World Cup.

India’s last international assignment was a five-match T20I series against reigning world champions Australia at home in December 2022. Harmanpreet and Co managed to hand the mighty Aussies their first loss of the year, but went down 1-4 in the series.

Now, the attention shifts to the upcoming tri-series and the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup that will begin in South Africa soon after that.

Ahead of the first game of the tri-series against South Africa, India captain Harmanpreet reflected on a number of topics in a press conference.

Talking about Shikha Pandey, who has been included in the squad having last played an international game in October 2021, the skipper said that the pacer’s experience will be crucial.

“Well, as you know she is a very experienced bowler,” said Harmanpreet. “Another reason was we are playing in South Africa, and South Africa is a place that is more friendly to the pacers. So we wanted to strengthen our medium pacers (attack). You have seen us playing with more spinners, but now we are in South Africa, we need more pace bowling options and that was the reason we brought her back. And she has done really well in the domestic season.

“She is someone who can swing the ball in the powerplay. She is experienced to bowl in the death overs also. Now we have had a couple of practice sessions, and we have given her different types of scenarios where she can go and execute herself. And the game-plan... we will discuss which areas she is more comfortable to go about, because she is going to play after a long time,” she added.

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India will be without the services of Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh in the tri-series, with both youngsters competing in the ongoing ICC Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup. In Shafali’s absence, Harmanpreet shared her views on who could open the batting for India alongside Smriti Mandhana.

“Well, we have a couple of options. (Sabbhineni) Meghana is also there, Yastika (Bhatia) is also a very good option for us. I think we will sit and discuss. Everybody is looking in good touch, whoever is batting in the nets is really doing well. We have to take a call, whoever is going to open with Smriti as Shafali is not there. I’m really happy that we have a couple of options. As a captain, you need that type of competition, where you have to think really hard to pick a XI,” said Harmanpreet.

Pooja Vastrakar’s return is a big boost for India and the captain was impressed by the all-rounder’s preparations.

“She is with us. She has been doing really well in the nets... the last call physio can give you better than me. But what I can see... she is batting well, she is bowling well. Before making the final XI, we just need to have a chat with her, physio... how she is? What type of workload do we have to manage? She is doing everything in all the departments and is someone who is very important to the side,” said Harmanpreet.


India: Smriti Mandhana, Sabbhineni Meghana, Harleen Deol, Jemimah Rodrigues, Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Deepti Sharma, Devika Vaidya, Sushma Verma (w), Pooja Vastrakar, Radha Yadav, Renuka Thakur Singh, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Shikha Pandey, Meghna Singh, Yastika Bhatia, Anjali Sarvani, Amanjot Kaur, Sneh Rana.

South Africa: Tazmin Brits, Laura Wolvaardt, Lara Goodall, Sune Luus (c), Marizanne Kapp, Chloe Tryon, Sinalo Jafta (w), Nadine de Klerk, Shabnim Ismail, Ayabonga Khaka, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Masabata Klaas, Anneke Bosch, Tumi Sekhukhune, Delmi Tucker, Annerie Dercksen, Tebogo Macheke.

West Indies: Hayley Matthews (c), Aaliyah Alleyne, Shanika Bruce, Shemaine Campbelle, Shamilia Connell, Britney Cooper, Afy Fletcher, Shabika Gajnabi, Sheneta Grimmond, Chinelle Henry, Chedean Nation, Karishma Ramharack, Kaysia Schultz, Shakera Selman, Stafanie Taylor, Rashada Williams (wk), Cherry-Ann Fraser.

Schedule for the tri-series

Match Date Time Venue
SA vs IND Thursday, January 19 10.30 pm IST Buffalo Park, East London
SA vs WI Saturday, January 21 6.30 pm IST Buffalo Park, East London
IND vs WI Monday, January 23 10.30 pm IST Buffalo Park, East London
SA vs WI Wednesday, January 25 6.30 pm IST Buffalo Park, East London
SA vs IND Saturday, January 28 10.30 pm IST Buffalo Park, East London
WI vs IND Monday, January 30 6.30 pm IST Buffalo Park, East London
Final Thursday, February 02 6.30 pm IST Buffalo Park, East London

Quotes courtesy Cricbuzz. Watch Harmanpreet Kaur’s full press conference here.