India returned from a successful tour of South Africa with the Harmanpreet Kaur-led Twenty20 team sealing the double series win last week.
While the 2-1 win in the ICC Women’s Championship ODIs was the combined effort of India’s experienced players, in the shorter format, India decided to go with four young debutants in the eleven.
India have not traditionally done well in T20Is and in the year of the stand alone World T20, this was a calculated gamble. But despite being thrown in the deep end in a sense, teens Pooja Vastrakar, Jemimah Rodrigues, Radha Yadav and 20-year-old Taniya Bhatia swam their way through in India’s 3-1 win.
Captain Harmanpreet Kaur was all praise for the teens as well, explaining that the idea was to test the young domestic performers on the international circuit to gauge their ability as they build the best possible squad for the World T20.
“If you see, we have only two-three senior players and others players are just coming in. In this year we have the World T20, so we want to give chance to young players in two three series [that we are playing,] After that we will go with the team of 15 and not change [ the combination],” she said on the sidelines of the Times of India Awards (TOISA) in Mumbai on Monday.
“We felt this is the right time to give a chance to everyone so we will know which players suit us in the West Indies [where the World T20 is],” she added.
Pacer Vastrakar was given the new ball in the absence of the veteran Jhulan Goswami and Bhatia was made the first-choice wicketkeeper, with good returns. However, spinner Yadav didn’t have the best outings and was replaced by Rajeshwari Gayakwad in the last three matches.
But the breakout player was Mumbai’s 17-year-old Rodrigues. Long hailed on the domestic circuit for her superb batting, she scored 87 runs in her three innings. In the last match, she was promoted ahead of the captain and played a solid knock at No 3. It was her composure and style in the two match-winning partnerships she shared with Mithali Raj in the first and last matches that stood out the most.
The captain singled her out saying, “Jemi has performed really well at the domestic level and she has shown her talent at the international level now, so we had that faith in her to bat up the order.”
Talking about the call to promote her in the last match, Harmanpreet confirmed it was to bulk up the middle order after the collapse in the previous match.
“The last T20I the situation was different, the wicket wasn’t easy to bat on and that is the reason we shuffled our batting order because we didn’t want to lose early wickets. In the previous game we have gotten out in the 17 over, we didn’t want a repeat of that. Jhulu di is also not playing, otherwise she manages the last few overs,” she explained.
For the 28-year-old, the biggest take away from the double series win India’s improved fielding. “Our fielding has been the biggest takeaway. If you talk about the last two three years, we were lacking [in the fielding department] but now we are giving efforts in the fielding as well. In the last game also, we had some good fielding efforts,’ she said.
The change in fielding is evident with the team as many runs are being saved by the quick work. Some of the best instances of this was Rodrigues stunning jump-and-back-arch catch at the boundary and Smriti Mandhana’s dive to save a certain six.
Harmanpreet, the deputy in ODIs, also said that she loves the additional role of a leader.
“I always enjoy captaincy, whenever I lead I feel like I am involved in the game and that always gives me a lot of confidence,” she said.
India will play Australia and England in bilateral series at home next, followed by a T20 triseries between the three. Both are strong opponents but Harmanpreet was confident that the momentum from the win in South Africa will help the team.
“Both teams are good we know it is not going to be easy it is a high level of competition and we are ready for that,” she signed off.