The 2018 ICC Women’s World T20 – first standalone World T20 – begins on Friday in the West Indies with more coverage and attention.
India, who have failed to progress beyond the group stage expect for the first two editions in 2009 and 2010, are fielding a new-look team under new coach Ramesh Powar. The Harmanpreet Kaur-led unit sports a much younger look with an average age of 24. The younger players, since their debut earlier this year, have all made their way into the playing XI on the back of steady performances.
India will open their campaign against New Zealand on Friday, play Pakistan on November 11, Ireland on November 15 and three-time champions Australia on November 17. The top two teams from each group will then progress to the semi-finals.
Here’s a look at India’s 15-member squad for the 2018 World T20.
Harmanpreet Kaur (Captain)
India’s skipper easily ranks among the most dangerous players in the tournament. Harmanpreet Kaur’s spell-binding knock of 171 against Australia in the World Cup semi-finals still ranks fresh in everyone’s memory. That knock, perhaps, changed the landscape of women’s cricket in India forever. Harmanpreet relishes this format and her colleagues from the Women’s Big Bash League side Sydney Thunder would attest to that. Much will be expected from her, including a repeat of her heroics from last year. Gutsy, thrilling, and a cricketer who wears her heart on her sleeve, Harmanpreet is on her way to attaining legendary status.
Smriti Mandhana (Vice-captain)
It is almost incredible to think that a little more than a year ago, the stylish southpaw was unsure of when she would step on the field again, following an injury. Mandhana came back with a bang in the aforementioned World Cup. Following that, she has had a dream run of form in franchise and international cricket. Captain in waiting and a ruthless hitter at the top of the order, her quick-fire starts in the powerplay will be vital for India to go deep in the tournament. The 22-year-old can single-handedly take the game from the opposition on her day.
India’s greatest by some distance, this might just be Mithali Raj’s final ICC tournament. Having come close on two occasions, her glittering trophy cabinet is crying out for major silverware. Widely believed to be the greatest batter in women’s cricket history, Raj is a vital cog in India’s top-heavy lineup.
Having relinquished T20 captaincy a few years ago, her experience will be a key component in an otherwise young Indian setup. Will this tournament be the finest chapter in the 36-year-old’s legendary career?
Taniya Bhatia (Wicket-keeper)
The recent Sri Lanka tour saw the 20-year-old from Chandigarh firmly establish her place in the side. Bhatia shone with the bat and gloves, and India’s batting order got a much-needed steel in their lower middle-order. Within a year of playing international cricket, Taniya already has 20 matches under her belt in the format.
With consistent performances, she has pushed senior keeper Sushma Verma out of the Indian setup. Her ability to negotiate spin well will also be crucial in the middle-overs.
Inconsistency has bogged the big-hitting Veda Krishnamurthy down in the recent past. On her day, the 26-year-old is a sure-fire match winner. She is now one of the senior players, and is by far, the side’s best fielder.
Veda is aggressive but plays the game with a smile on her face. It is widely believed that she is one of the most popular members of the side. Like Harmanpreet and Mandhana, Veda has also had a taste of league cricket. That experience will prove handy but not throwing her wicket away cheaply is the need of the hour for the enigmatic Bangalore girl.
Rodrigues is probably the star candidate of India’s post-2017 shake-up. The Mumbai teenager continues to defy the odds and deliver performances that belies her age. Having dabbled with multiple sports in school, her multi-faceted personality extends on the cricket field too.
The management has tried her in the middle-order, lower-order, and as an opener. It is at the top of the order that she has looked most comfortable, complimenting friend Mandhana. The 18-year-old is also a livewire on the field and her agility while fielding near the boundary ropes has come for a lot of praise.
It might come as a surprise to some that all-rounder Anuja Patil has been in and out of the side for the last six years. In the recent past, Patil has been in fine form with the bat and ball, making her the dark horse of this side. That is the balance she provides.
Spin is one of India’s key weapons and her presence – in the powerplay and the middle overs – will play a important role in frustrating the opposition.
The leg-spinner is India’s highest wicket-taker in T20s, going past Jhulan Goswami recently. Poonam’s 61 wickets in the format have come at an astounding average of 13.34. It will be interesting to see how Harmanpreet uses Poonam, who will spearhead India’s spin attack.
The diminutive 27-year-old, given her wealth of experience, will be India’s main strike bowler on the slow wickets of West Indies.
Young Deepti Sharma is better known for her exploits in ODI cricket, where she has a six-for to her name and registered India’s highest individual score (188). In such a short span of time, Deepti has made a mark, making her irreplaceable in the side. In T20s, it is the Agra-born’s bowling and fielding that ranks higher than her batting.
Unfortunately, the management is uncertain about Deepti’s position in the batting order. With slots in the top and the middle order already taken, the 21-year-old will have to contend with bolstering the lower middle-order, India’s Achilles Heel.
Along with Poonam Yadav, the experienced Ekta Bisht will be one part of a slow-bowlers partnership that is expected to spin a web around the opposition. She is consistent with her line and gives no quarter. The 32-year-old, like many of her other teammates, had a fine outing in the 2017 World Cup.
When she is not hoisting her teammates every time India picks up a wicket, Radha Yadav is a left-arm spinner who battled through the bouncers life threw at her to earn an international call-up. While most cricketers would move from Baroda to Mumbai to enhance their chances of playing for the national side, Radha did the reverse. Having impressed in all the games she has played so far, the teenager has been identified as a T20 specialist.
The pacer made a strong comeback recently after missing out on fair bit of cricket following the 2017 World Cup. The presence of the colossal figure of Goswami during the early part of her career reduced her to an understudy.
With Pooja Vastrakar still learning the ropes, and Goswami announcing her retirement from the shortest format, Mansi now finds herself in the role of pace spearhead. She has big shoes to fill, and there is a lot riding on her.
Pooja has been a breath of fresh air in Indian cricket over the past year. The all-rounder is a canny medium-pacer and can club the ball a long way coming down the order. It remains to be seen how the 19-year-old will fit into the scheme of things. It is likely that, at least in the early stages, India will go with two spinners and as many pacers.
Hemalatha is an all-rounder who recently featured for India in Sri Lanka. Through her limited number of performances, Hemalata did enough to earn a spot for West Indies.
Like Hemalata, Arundhati Reddy earned her place in the side only recently and is one of the back-up pacers in the side. These are still early days for the Hyderabadi, who fared reasonably well during the build-up to the World T20.