It has been over five months since India Women featured in any international tournament except a four-game Women's T20 challenge. A long gap, indeed. However, better late than never. India Women are ready to roll against South Africa Women for five T20Is at Surat starting from September 24.
In the absence of former Indian captain, Mithali Raj, this new looking Indian team is a great combination of young and experienced talent. Shafali Verma, 15-year-old opening batswoman will replace Mithali Raj and the return of Pooja Vastrakar, Veda Krishnamurthy and Mansi Joshi to the squad will add some strong flavour to the Indian dressing room.
However, the inclusion of Veda Krishnamurthy is just unfathomable as she scored three single-digit scores in the last four innings she played for India.
There are two things that India should be proud of. First, the last time both the teams faced each other in South Africa, India won the five-match T20I series 3-1. Second, star Indian players including Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Harmanpreet Kaur and all-rounder, Deepti Sharma are joining the squad fresh from Kia Super League.
All four made a significant contribution to the tournament. Jemimah (401) was the second-highest run-getter in KSL'19. Deepti was good with both bat and ball and Smriti and Harmanpreet scored over 260 runs in 11 and 10 innings respectively.
So, taking a good look at Indian squad for first three T20Is, India finds itself in a comfortable position with all the bases covered. Jemimah, Mandhana, Shafali, Taniya Bhatia and Harleen Deol at the top, Harmanpreet, Anuja Patil, Veda and Deepti in the middle, Pooja, Shikha Pandey and Radha Yadav at the bottom, seems a good blend of experience and talent.
However, not to forget that all the 5 T20Is India and South Africa women are going to play against each other at Lalabhai Contractor Stadium, Surat will be organised under the lights at the prime time.
Players to watch out for -
1) Shafali Verma
Known for her hard-hitting style, Shafali is a young and exciting prospect who has made her way to the top in a very small time. The 15-year-old had shown the glimpse of her power-hitting abilities just two months back at Jaipur in the Women's T20 Challenge and a couple of months prior to that in the domestic circuit. Management and Captain are confident about her inclusion to the side as she brings x-factor to the table with a long future ahead of her.
2) Pooja Vastrakar
19-years old, Pooja has surprised everyone with her direct entry to the national side after a long layoff due to injury. It's been over a year now since she last played for India. But, keeping a player of her calibre out of the squad would be a foolish decision. In T20Is, she carries a strike rate of 137.09, bowling average of 18.5 and 12 wickets in 11 games. With her presence, she can make a significant contribution to the team with the new ball and batting in the final overs.
With more young legs to the side, fielding would receive an extra edge and every captain in the world would love to have such comfort in her playing XI.
Squad for first three T20Is: Harmanpreet Kaur (captain), Smriti Mandhana (vice-captain), Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wicketkeeper), Poonam Yadav, Shikha Pandey, Arundhati Reddy, Pooja Vastrakar, Radha Yadav, Veda Krishnamurthy, Harleen Deol, Anuja Patil, Shafali Verma, Mansi Joshi