Teen sensation Shafali Verma is set to make her much anticipated One Day International debut as India gear up for much-needed course-correction in the format against reigning world champions England.
India, who lost to England in the final of the 2017 World Cup, take on Heather Knight and Co in the first game of the three-match series in Bristol on Sunday.
The last time India played an ODI series, they were soundly beaten 4-1 by South Africa at home. Then, Mithali Raj and Co were playing their first international match in a year and an ODI series after nearly 15 months, and there was a lot to learn from that debacle.
The lessons have to be learnt quickly though, as the delayed ODI World Cup starts in eight months in New Zealand and a series in England is crucial preparation.
India's ODI record against England
|Matches||India win||England win||N/R||India's W/L ratio|
|Away / Neutral venues||38||9||27||2||0.333|
|In England since 2010||10||3||7||0||0.428|
India's recent ODI record against England
|lost||2 wickets||won||1st||Mumbai||28 Feb 2019|
|won||7 wickets||lost||2nd||Mumbai||25 Feb 2019|
|won||66 runs||lost||1st||Mumbai||22 Feb 2019|
|won||8 wickets||lost||2nd||Nagpur||12 Apr 2018|
|lost||8 wickets||won||1st||Nagpur||9 Apr 2018|
|won||1 wickets||lost||2nd||Nagpur||6 Apr 2018|
|lost||9 runs||lost||2nd||Lord's||23 Jul 2017|
|won||35 runs||lost||1st||Derby||24 Jun 2017|
Verma, the 17-year-old batting sensation was surprisingly not picked for the home series against South Africa and that not only raised eyebrows but also starkly highlighted the absence of a big-hitter in the Indian batting order.
Whatever the reason behind her initial omission, she has now proven beyond doubt that she indeed has the capability to translate her T20 batting style to the longer formats after her stellar Test debut against England last week with scores of 96 and 63. Her performances came in for plenty of praise from captain Mithali Raj, who actually said she enjoyed the second innings 63 more than the record-breaking 96 because of how sorted Verma’s game appeared in the middle.
Her big-hitting prowess would certainly be of great value for the Indian team, which has lacked impact players save vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur, who herself has been inconsistent in recent times. Given how the dynamics of ODI batting have evolved, Verma could prove invaluable for the World Cup.
Verma will be expected to partner Smriti Mandhana at the top of the order, which means there could well be an overhaul batting lineup. In the series against South Africa, Jemimah Rodrigues and Priya Punia were tried as openers to little success and in the past, Punam Raut has occupied the spot too.
It would be interesting to check out India’s team composition which came under a lot of scanner during the series against the Proteas.
Priya Punia had a moderate series after replacing Rodrigues and its likely both youngsters will miss out in England. Raut, after a good show against South Africa and in the Test against England, might come in to anchor the innings at No 3, followed by her skipper Mithali and deputy Harmanpreet at No 5.
All-rounder Deepti Sharma, a mainstay across formats, is likely to be a fixture in the middle order. The choice for the next slot will be between wicketkeepers Taniya Bhatia and Indrani Roy, who was selected in the squad on the back of her chart-topping performances in the domestic Women’s Senior One day Trophy. Bhatia though finally came good with the bat to help India save the Test match and is already the first-choice with the gloves, which will give her an edge.
Among the bowlers, the big question will be the spin-seam ratio.
Jhulan Goswami is an automatic choice in one-dayers and the second seamer slot – which raised many questions during the South Africa series experiment – will be between Shikha Pandey, Pooja Vastrakar and Arundhati Reddy. Vastrakar may have an advantage due to her batting prowess but it’s an even toss-up and three of them may get the chance.
When it comes to the spin department – arguably the biggest let down against South Africa – there is little to determine form. Sharma is an automatic candidate but the other slots will give the Indian think-tank much to think about.
The Indian team had seen how Sophie Ecclestone, with her wicket-to-wicket left-arm orthodox spin bowling, troubled the Indians during the lone Test and hence either Ekta Bisht or Radha Yadav, with similar skill sets, might get a good. But it will be hard to leave out Sneh Rana after her star turn on international comeback.
The choice will be between Rana, with her batting capabilities and impressive off-breaks, and leg-spinner Poonam Yadav. But Yadav’s recent performances against South Africa, (0 wickets in five games) do not inspire confidence and it makes Rana favourite. Mithali had said after the Test that a reason for Rana getting the nod in the Tests was how well she bowled in the nets. She adds an element of dynamism with the bat as well, an area India have desperately struggled.
For world champions England, Sophia Dunkley, after her impressive Test debut last week, is set for her first ODI cap. Knight’s team are well-rounded in all aspects and will offer India a tough test.
Top ODI runscorers (IND & ENG) since Jan 2000
Top ODI wicket-takers (IND & ENG) since 2000
Mithali Raj on India’s preparations
Mithali on Saturday said the team is looking forward to Verma’s starts at the top of the order.
“There will be times when she gives us a head start. We would love that to be consistent but at the same time she’s a young kid, she’ll learn with experience, she’ll also learn how to build an innings,” Mithali said at the pre-match press conference on the day she completed 22 years in international cricket.
“Since she’s getting into playing the ODI format for the first time, I as a captain encourage her to play the way she enjoys playing is comfortable playing, that’s the style of batting she should do.
“If we lose early wickets, we as experienced batters in the middle-order are there to rebuild, or if we get a good start, take the momentum forward. We have the batting depth to do that,” Mithali added.
The 38-year-old said the performance in the one-off Test has boosted the team’s confidence and while England, one of the best teams in the world, will have the home advantage, the experience of playing in English leagues will help the Indian side in the series.
“We have players who have played leagues here in England, we’ll gather information from them and that will help us do well,” she added.
India had suffered a 1-4 series defeat at home against South Africa in March and the skipper wants the team to get back to winning ways, keeping in mind the World Cup in New Zealand.
“New Zealand is windier than England. I wouldn’t say similar conditions, but more or less, the wickets there are far better. The last time we played there, it was a good One-day series. Our preparation has already started, when we get into a series we always look to win.
“We consider game plans/combinations in the run up to the World Cup, but it’s important to win a game, series. The last series was not very good for the team, as captain I want the team to get back to winning ways.”
The Indian captain also said that the focus would be on playing positive cricket, something that was missing in the team’s all-round efforts against South Africa. Under new management since then, plenty of eyes will be on how the team shows improvement in all three departments. The Test match performance was heartwarming, but it is the ODIs where the work needs to be done urgently.
India: Mithali Raj (captain), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Punam Raut, HarmanpreeKaur (vc), Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Sneh Rana, Jhulan Goswami, Shikha Pandey, Jemimah Rodrigues, Arundhati Reddy, Puja Vastrakar, Ekta Bisht, Radha Yadav, Poonam Yadav, Priya Punia, Indrani Roy (wk).
England: Heather Knight (captain), Tammy Beaumont, Kate Cross, Nat Sciver, Sophia Dunkley, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Anya Shrubsole, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Amy Jones (wk), Freya Davis, Tash Farrant, Sarah Glenn, Mady Villiers (released), Fran Wilson, Sarah Glenn, Emily Arlott (released), Tash Farrant.
With PTI Inputs