India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur has been in a strange place. Over the years, she established a reputation for herself as a match-winner for the Indian team. It was a reputation built on her ability to play the big shots like few others in the game.

But, of late, she has looked like a duck out of water. The stop-start nature of the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t helped her at all. Consistency was never her forte but every once in a while, she would play the kind of knock that would make you sit up and take notice. On the England tour, however, she has looked like a player badly out of rhythm and form.

She started off with scores of 4 and 8 in the one-off Test and then followed it up with scores of 1, 19 and 16 in the ODIs.

This is not the Harmanpreet India needs and the right-hander hopes she can find herself as the T20 leg of the series kicks into gear. The shortest format of the game also sometimes helps blow away the cobwebs because of the approach required.

“I am someone who likes to train every day, who likes to work hard every day but because of Covid and injuries I didn’t get that much time to prepare,” Harmanpreet said in a virtual media conference on the eve of the first T20.

She added: “These are not excuses but this is the reality which I faced. It’s a matter of one good innings and definitely, I will carry on from there.”

Eng vs India in T20s

Span Mat Eng wins Ind
2006-2020 19 15 4 0

But the problems are not all recent. Harmanpreet’s last ODI century was her trailblazing 171 not out against Australia in the 2017 World Cup semi-final. In T20Is, she’s yet to score a fifty since her 103 against New Zealand in November 2018. The lack of cricket hasn’t helped but truth to be told, she has been in a slump for a while now.

Harmanpreet added: “I’m someone who likes to give 200% on the field, needs a lot of time for preparation on the ground. At the international level, you can’t get things easily, the mindset and approach for the game is not that easy.”

A groin injury ruled her out of the T20I series against South Africa in March and there was worse in store for her as she contracted Covid-19 soon after.

“After the five innings, I’ve understood where and how to improve. You will definitely see a different approach from my side in the T20Is.

“Right now, I’m feeling good, physically I’m fit but the only thing I need is some more time in the nets. That’s all I can say. During this time, I got enough time to train. Now I’m quite confident and I’m ready to play these three matches.”

That confidence will have to translate into runs though and that might not be easy against England.

The momentum will be with India as they got a morale-boosting four-wicket win in the final ODI after losing the series to England.

“If you see the second ODI, we didn’t win the game but got the momentum from there only. The way we fielded and bowled was outstanding. We were playing after a long gap, it’s not easy. But we will definitely like to carry that momentum,” she said.

All-rounder Sneh Rana has been a standout performer in the tour especially after her 80 not out salvaged a thrilling draw against England in the one-off Test.

Rana continued her form in the ODIs, picking up two wickets in two games, conceding runs at an economy rate of 4.35.

“The team is looking very balanced at this moment. We struggled at the death but with Rana, we are getting the balance right. We need that type of player who can contribute with both bat and ball,” Harmanpreet added.

Both the openers – Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana – are in good touch but the team is expecting more consistency from them, especially from the vice-captain.

Richa Ghosh, another 17-year-old in the team alongside Shafali, is also likely to feature in the playing XI having done well in the home series against South Africa.

Teams (from):

India: Harmanpreet Kaur (captain) Smriti Mandhana, Deepti Sharma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma, Richa Ghosh, Harleen Deol, Sneh Rana, Taniya Bhatia, Indrani Roy, Shikha Pandey, Pooja Vastrakar, Arundhati Reddy, Poonam Yadav, Ekta Bisht, Radha Yadav, Simaran Dil Bahadur.

England: Heather Knight (captain), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Freya Davies, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Tash Farrant, Sarah Glenn, Amy Jones, Nat Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Mady Villiers, Fran Wilson, Danni Wyatt.

Match starts 11 PM (IST).

Full schedule

Time (IST) Date Match Venue
11.00pm July 09th 1st T20I (D/N) Northants
7.00 pm July 11th 2nd T20I  Hove
11.00 pm July 15th 3rd T20I (D/N) Chelmsford