The matches against Australia exposed a lot of chinks in their armour and India will be eager to address them by improving in all three department in their T20 tri-series opener against hosts South Africa here on Thursday.
With only a few days left for the T20 World Cup in South Africa, skipper Harmanpreet Kaur will be keen to provide the team a winning start in the tri-series against South Africa and West Indies.
In the previous series, which India lost 1-4, Harmapreet and Co. were able to push the mighty Australia to the limit but failed to land the killer blow, be it with the bat or ball. Their fielding was also found lacking.
The series exposed India’s frailties in the bowling department and the team has a lot of work to do before the ICC event, starting February 10.
India’s young and relatively inexperienced pace department has struggled since veteran Jhulan Goswami retired from international cricket. This led to experienced pacer Shikha Pandey’s surprise inclusion in the side after almost 15 months.
Having last played an international match in October 2021 before controversially being dropped, the focus will be on the veteran pacer as India will bank on Pandey’s experience and form in the World Cup.
Hence it is vital that the 33-year-old, whose strength is swing bowling, gets into rhythm soon and spearheads the pace unit.
Pace bowling all-rounder Pooja Vastrakar also returns to the side after missing the Australia series due to an injury. An important cog in India’s scheme of things with the bat and ball, the tri-series will provide crucial game time to shrug off the rust after her injury layoff ahead of the World Cup.
Renuka Singh, the team’s go-to bowler in the last six months, and rookie left-arm pacer Anjali Sarvani delivered in patches against Australia and will look for a consistent show as will the spinners, who didn’t fare too well either. Deepti Sharma is the only one who has taken wickets regularly.
India will miss the services of the big-hitting duo of Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh, who are competing in the U-19 Women’s World Cup.
Their absence will be an opportunity to test other players. Sabbhineni Meghana is likely to open alongside Smriti Mandhana while Yastika Bhatia will don the wicketkeeper’s gloves.
India have found a much-needed finisher in the young Richa but in her absence skipper Harmanpreet could do with more support in the middle order.
India have a lot of work to do in the batting department. Rotation of strike has been a huge issue. While the boundary count has increased, the Indian batters consumed way too many deliveries against Australia.
Focus will be on Jemimah Rodrigues as well after a good show at the Commonwealth Games last August.
One of the pillars of the Indian team, which went all the way to the final of the CWG, Jemimah needs to find the runs.
Hosts South Africa will be eager to make a mark in their first international game since the CWG in Birmingham.
The series will give them the opportunity to try out strategies and different combinations ahead of the World Cup as they look to capitalise on their home advantage.
India: Harmanpreet Kaur (Captain), Smriti Mandhana (Vice Captain), Yastika Bhatia (wk), Jemimah Rodrigues, Harleen Deol, Deepti Sharma, Devika Vaidya, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Radha Yadav, Renuka Thakur, Meghna Singh, Anjali Sarvani, Shushma Verma (wk), Amanjot Kaur, Pooja Vastrakar, Sabbhineni Meghana, Sneh Rana and Shikha Pandey.
South Africa: Suné Luus (Captain), Chloé Tryon (Vice Captain), Anneke Bosch, Tazmin Brits, Nadine de Klerk, Annerie Dercksen, Lara Goodall, Shabnim Ismail, Sinalo Jafta, Marizanne Kapp, Ayabonga Khaka, Masabata Klaas, Tebogo Macheke, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Tumi Sekhukhune, Delmi Tucker and Laura Wolvaardt.
Match starts 10:30pm IST.