Selectors' daring calls for Women's World Cup could haunt India

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06 Jan 2022 | 03:26 PM
authorShweta Haranhalli

Selectors' daring calls for Women's World Cup could haunt India

Jemimah Rodrigues and Shikha Pandey were the notable absentees from India's squad for the Women's ODI World Cup

It is tough to be a women's cricketer in India. 

In a rather unusual manner, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) sent a mere press release announcing the Indian squad for the marquee event of women's cricket, the World Cup. 

While it was a moment of extreme happiness for the 15 players selected in the squad, for the fringe players and the fans of the game, it opened a plethora of questions revolving around some of the debatable calls taken by the selection committee.

It was baffling to witness one of the significant squad announcements done leaving no room for questions surrounding the selectors' decisions.

Two months from now, the Indian team will set foot at the Bay Oval for their inaugural match against arch-rivals Pakistan, carrying the hopes of billions. 

"We want to win the World Cup because it would be a revolution kind of a thing for Indian women's cricket. It would give a big impetus for young girls to take up the sport," said Mithali Raj in a pre-departure press conference before the 2017 World Cup.

After a month of riveting action, the Women in Blue etched their name in the record books and reached the final of the iconic event for the second time. Despite falling agonisingly short by nine runs at Lord's, the team did what they set out to do by inspiring millions of young kids to take up the sport.

Also read: Indian Women's Cricket Team's Mission 2022

One of the glaring issues for the side in the previous event was the over-dependency on Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur. With an eye on the next World Cup, the Indian team management opted to present Jemimah Rodrigues an opportunity at number three to strengthen the batting order after her standout domestic season for Mumbai.

While the 21-year old is not exactly a revelation in the fifty-over format, her heroics in T20s and the experience playing in franchise leagues around the world would have benefitted the Indian side. 

In the 21 innings played thus far, the right-handed batter has scored 394 runs at an average of 19.70, including a string of low scores in the home series against South Africa last year. 

With 22 runs in five innings in 2021, Rodrigues lost her place in the playing XI for the final ODI of their England tour. Despite the stutter, she produced one of the most scintillating innings in the inaugural edition of The Hundred for the pundits to take notice.

The youngster amassed 249 runs in seven innings at an average of 41.50 and a strike rate of 150.9 to end the tournament as the second-highest run-scorer, ten runs behind Dane van Niekerk. 

While her heroics helped her secure a place in the squad for the multi-format series against Australia, Rodrigues missed out on a place in the ODI series as the selectors opted for Yastika Bhatia. 

The southpaw scored 102 runs in the three matches, including a vital 62 runs, to help the Indian side clinch a hard-fought two-wicket win and halt the hosts' streak of 26 wins. 

Bhatia continued to showcase her talent in the recently concluded Challenger Trophy with a match-defining 86 in the final against India D. 

While Rodrigues was left out of the squad owing to lack of consistent performances with the national side, it is a rather brave call by the selectors to draft a player with a three-match experience at the international level on the biggest stage in sport. 

The emergence of Bhatia has also resulted in the ouster of Punam Raut, who played a crucial role in India's campaign in the last world event. The 32-year old endured a dismal run in the domestic tournament for the Railways and missed out on a place in the Challenger Trophy squads ahead of the selection. 

***

In the bowling department, the selectors have opted for youngsters Meghna Singh and uncapped pacer from Himachal Pradesh, Renuka Singh, to form the pace bowling unit along with Jhulan Goswami and Pooja Vastrakar. 

In the recently concluded series against Australia, Shikha produced an absolute scorcher to dismiss Alyssa Healy. With conditions set to be conducive for swing bowling, her omission in the squad is something to ponder for the fans of the game. 

The selectors and the team management decided to drop Shikha Pandey, one of the mainstays in the bowling unit of the side to hand Renuka her maiden ODI call up.

Renuka was one of the standout performers for Himachal Pradesh last season, resulting in her inclusion in the T20I series against Australia.

The 25-year old was consistent with her line and length in the series and impressed the selectors in her short international career. 

While the pace quartet troubled the Aussie batting unit in the T20I series, lack of experience to partner Goswami with the new ball can come back to haunt the Indian side. 

As the Indian team aims to get a step further and win the elusive world title, hope remains that these decisions do not hamper the team's chances and the players who have been left out are communicated with appropriate reasons. 

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India Women tour of New Zealand, 2022ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup, 2022IndiaJemimah RodriguesPunam RautShikha PandeyMeghna SinghRenuka Singh

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