When the Indian women’s team walk out for the first T20 International in Guwahati on Monday, it will be a significant moment. Team India will have a new leader.
Step forward, Smriti Mandhana: all set to be India’s youngest captain in the shortest format.
Apart from being a test of Mandhana’s captaincy, India will aim to finalise a core group of players ahead of the T20 World Cup early next year when it takes on England in a three-match series starting on Monday.
India have been doing well in the 50-over format but they have plenty to ponder about in the shortest form, having lost their previous series in New Zealand 0-3.
The whitewash in New Zealand came after a historic win in the ODIs and India will be hoping to reverse that trend with the T20s against England. India beat them 2-1 in the preceding ODI series in Mumbai.
Harmanpreet Kaur has not yet recovered from an ankle injury and in-form opener Mandhana will captain the side in her absence, providing her an opportunity to prove her skills as a leader.
The southpaw continues to plunder runs, having scored two successive half centuries in ODIs against England. She was also in sublime touch in New Zealand last month.
In Harmanpreet’s absence, senior player and ODI captain Mithali Raj is expected to play a bigger role in the three T20s. Raj was dropped from the first two games in New Zealand before she scored an unbeaten 24 in the third match, although it did not prove to be enough.
The 36-year-old has hinted in the past that she is unlikely to play the next T20 World Cup in Australia and it remains to be sees how her experience will be used against England.
Focus will also be on Veda Krishnamurthy, who has made a comeback after being left out due to her below-par performance in the 2018 World T20, where India lost to England in the semifinals.
Harleen Deol and Bharati Fulmali too will be itching to prove themselves after replacing Priya Puni and D Hemalatha in the squad.
Left-arm pacer Komal Zanzad, who has replaced Mansi Joshi, is in line to make her international debut. Zanzad bowled a stunning opening spell against England during the Board President’s XI warm-up match before the ODI series.
In-form Shikha Pandey is likely to lead the pace department in an otherwise spin heavy bowling attack comprising five specialists.
India: Smriti Mandhana (captain), Mithali Raj, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wicketkeeper), Bharti Fulmali, Anuja Patil, Shikha Pandey, Komal Zanzad, Arundhati Reddy, Poonam Yadav, Ekta Bisht, Radha Yadav, Veda Krishnamurty, Harleen Deol.
England: Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Sophia Dunkley Brown, Freya Davies, Georgia Elwiss, Amy Ellen Jones, Heather Knight(c), Laura Marsh, Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Linsey Smith, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt, Alex Hartley
Match starts 11 am IST.
(With PTI inputs)