In India’s first Twenty20 International match since the controversial semi-final at the World T20 in Novmember, captain Harmanpreet Kaur stuck to her guns and left Mithali Raj out of the playing XI in Wellington on Thursday.

The veteran batter was not named in the team for the first T20 against New Zealand at Wellington on Wednesday as Priya Punia made her debut for India. Having won the toss, Harmanpreet chose to bowl first. Hosts New Zealand had two debutants as well in Rosemary Mair and Katie Gurrey.

The call has not come as a surprise as reports of Raj considering retirement in the shortest format emerged on Tuesday night. She was dropped for the all-important semi-final in the West Indies, a decision of the team management triggered a massive controversy and, eventually removed Ramesh Powar as coach to be replaced by WV Raman.

Raj’s absence is an opportunity for Punia, who replaced an out of form Veda Krishnamurthy in the squad, to make her mark. The 22-year-old Delhi opener scored two centuries in the senior women’s one-day league domestic tournament and has been in good touch.

Her father, Surendra, is known to have sold his property to construct a cricket ground for her and she repaid that by showing her excellent form in domestic cricket to be picked for the national team soon.

Here are the confirmed XIs:

New Zealand: Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, Caitlin Gurrey, Amy Satterthwaite (C), Katey Martin (W), Frances Mackay, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu, Rosemary Mair

India: Smriti Mandhana, Priya Punia, Jemimah Rodrigues, Harmanpreet Kaur (C), Dayalan Hemalatha, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (W), Anuja Patil, Arundhati Reddy, Radha Yadav, Poonam Yadav