CHENNAI: Finishing runners-up at the 2017 Women’s World Cup put India on the women’s cricket map. It was a tournament like no other for the team that changed the way they were seen. Even the BCCI announced a new central contract system for women.
Amid heightened expectations, the fifth-ranked team will begin another World Cup campaign — a T20 event — in the second week of November in the Caribbean. But it’s fair to say that India has not kept up the levels they reached last year. Losing the Asia Cup T20 final to a lower-ranked Bangladesh opened up cracks and with three months left for the World T20, the management sacked coach Tushar Arothe. India’s most experienced bowler Jhulan Goswami also decided to bid adieu to T20Is in August.
Against this backdrop, Harmanpreet Kaur will be leading the side at a global event for the first time. The likes of Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet, Mithali Raj and promising talent Jemimah Rodrigues have ensured there are no concerns about the batting. But the same cannot be said about the bowling attack.
“Jhulan’s absence definitely leaves a dent,” says former India player Mamtha Maben. “She has been serving for so many years. In all World Cups, she has been instrumental in claiming crucial wickets that would change the course of the game. It’s important that pacers give a good start that spinners can build on.”With only three pacers — Arundhati Reddy, Mansi Joshi and Pooja Vastrakar — India is going with five slower bowlers. The bowling attack will be spearheaded by leg-spinner Poonam Yadav — ranked second in T20I rankings. Poonam, with 43 caps, was the only one to feature in all 20 T20Is that India played this year. In Anuja Patil and Deepti Sharma, the team has two bowlers who can come in handy with the bat. The two left-arm orthodox bowlers in Ekta Bisht and young Radha Yadav complete the spin department.
With India set to play all their group matches in Guyana, where the pitch is expected to be on the slow side, it won’t be surprising if coach Ramesh Powar decides to field four spinners and a pacer — an experiment that he carried out in Sri Lanka last month.
“Spinners have always played a major part,” says Shubhangi Kulkarni, a former cricketer and secretary of the Women’s Cricket Association of India. “Our spinners have been able to contain teams like England, New Zealand and Australia who generally find it difficult to read spin. Considering the team is playing their first four matches in Guyana, it makes sense to pick more spinners. The conditions are similar to India.
“With Jhulan not around, it’s understandable that Powar has looked up to spinners. The conditions in Sri Lanka assist spin. So the series was a perfect platform to experiment ahead of the World Cup,” she says. The side’s biggest challenge will be Australia and New Zealand, who they face on November 9 and 17 respectively.
Squad for marquee event
Harmanpreet Kaur (C), Smriti Mandhana (VC), Tanya Bhatia, Ekta Bisht, Dayalan Hemalatha, Mansi Joshi, Veda Krishnamurthy, Anuja Patil, Mithali Raj, Arundhati Reddy, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Radha Yadav, Poonam Yadav.