A heavy loss in the final one-day international notwithstanding, the Indian team led by Harmanpreet Kaur will aim for a solid showing in the opening encounter of the three-match T20I series against New Zealand, beginning in Wellington on Wednesday.
The three-match ODI series, which was part of the ICC Women’s Championship, was won by India 2-1 after the visitors’ eight-wicket loss at Hamilton on February 1, when they were bowled out for 149 at Hamilton.
Kaur, who did not get to do much in ODIs in which Mithali Raj was captain, will now lead the T20 side. It has now emerged that Raj might possibly contemplating her future in the shortest format with her place in the XI not a guarantee.
It will be India’s first game in the format ever since that infamous loss to England at the Word T20 in the Caribbean, where Raj was dropped for the all-important semi-final. That decision of the team management triggered a massive controversy and, eventually, Ramesh Powar was replaced by WV Raman as the head coach.
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Questions were raised over Raj’s strike-rate in the shortest format and it remains to be seen how she approaches the series, having played a record 200th ODI at Hamilton. Despite the stats showing Jemimah Rodrigues should face as many powerplay overs as possible and that Raj would now be better suited to playing down the order, India have only played one innings in which Rodrigues opened and Raj batted below her.
Surprisingly, the Indian batters struggled most against spinners in the third ODI and that is one area they would be looking to improve. Kaur is expected to play a much bigger role with the bat and lot will depend on start provided by Smriti Mandhana and Rodrigues, who missed out on partnerships in the second and third matches.
Mandhana, however, had a memorable series with scores of 90 and 105, enough to earn her the player of the series award.
Tanya Bhatia had opened with Mandhana in the World T20 semi-final against England but since then Rodrigues has showed signs of a potent partnership with the new ODI world No 1.
Another player to watch out for also be on uncapped all-rounder Priya Punia, who replaced an out of form Veda Krishnamurthy in the squad. It’s been quite the journey for her, after scoring two centuries in the senior women’s one-day league domestic tournament. To get here, she had the support of her father, Surendra, who, according to The Times of India, sold his property to construct a cricket ground for her.
He took loans to buy a 1.5-bigha plot on the outskirts of Jaipur at Harmada for Rs 22 lakh in 2010. He’d thought of building a sports complex there but after finding his daughter’s passion for cricket, he set up the nets and laid a pitch.
The three-games will also help the team management assess where it stands ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia early next year.
India: Harmanpreet Kaur(c), Smriti Mandhana, Mithali Raj, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia, Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav, Anuja Patil, Ekta Bisht, Dayalan Hemalatha, Mansi Joshi, Arundhati Reddy, Shikha Pandey, Priya Punia.
New Zealand: Amy Satterthwaite(c), Suzie Bates, Bernadine Bezuidenhout, Sophie Devine, Hayley Jensen, Caitlin Gurrey, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Frances Mackay, Katey Martin, Rosemary Mair, Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu.
Match starts 8.30 am IST.