Sans Kaur strength, India women seek redemption in T20I

The hosts face an uphill battle after they lost T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur to the hip injury she sustained during the fifth ODI.
Smriti Mandhana will lead the first T20I in Harmanpreet Kaur's absence
Smriti Mandhana will lead the first T20I in Harmanpreet Kaur's absence

CHENNAI: With fresh legs and fresh minds, India will look to reset ahead of the T20 leg of the series against South Africa, beginning in Lucknow from Saturday. Coming off a massive 1-4 series loss in the ODI leg, the hosts already face an uphill battle after they lost T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur to the hip injury she sustained during the fifth ODI. Even if she could be fit for the second T20I — the extent of the injury is not clear at this point — the hosts will have wanted her fit and ready to go.

Among the many boxes to tick for the hosts, Harmanpreet's void in the batting line-up will be the hardest to fill as Smriti Mandhana takes charge in her absence. Batting at No 5, Harmanpreet has been the link between the top and middle-order and has often made mammoth targets look easy with her aggressive
style of batting. Her experience will be missed as Veda Krishnamurthy has also been left out of the squad. With Jemimah Rodrigues yet to find her feet playing after a long gap, the hosts will be banking on the likes of Smriti and Shafali Verma to do the bulk of the scoring.  

"She (Harmanpreet) is out of tomorrow's (Saturday) match and the rest of the update on her condition will be given by the medical team," Smriti said during a virtual pre-match press conference. "We will try to forget the ODIs and focus on the T20 series. Yes, the ODI series was a disappointment but we need to
forget that and move ahead. Some new faces have come in the team, so we need to think fresh."

Though there are promising talents like Richa Ghosh and Harleen Deol, they are bound to be rusty in their first international match in over a year. However, with new players, Smriti believes they won't be carrying the baggage. "We had a discussion on how to go about our preparation, what went wrong in the ODI series and how to go forward. We now need to concentrate on the T20Is. We are now looking at the ODI series as a preparation for the T20I series," she added.

India's area of concern will not be just limited to batting but also extend to bowling and fielding, which was below-par in the one-day series. There is no Jhulan Goswami to save them in this format and pacer Shikha Pandey has been rested. The team will be thin on resources as one of Arundhati Reddy or Mansi
Joshi is expected to take the pacer's slot. In the spin department, barring left-armer Rajeshwari Gayakwad, the likes of Poonam Yadav and Deepti Sharma were found wanting.

But Smriti was upbeat that tweakers will find their groove to avoid another series defeat against in-form South Africa. "Spinners are our biggest strength. Definitely, they (spinners) were not bad but inconsistent in their bowling (in the ODI series). But if we keep pitching the ball in the same areas, it will become difficult for batters," the 24-year-old opined.

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