India grapple with combination questions as the Shafali era begins

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safari
26 Jun 2021 | 03:59 PM
authorBastab K Parida

India grapple with combination questions as the Shafali era begins

The Indian Women’s team, led by Mithali Raj, will take on England for a three-match ODI series after a fighting draw last week

What lies ahead for Rodrigues?

In the home ODI series against South Africa, Jemimah Rodrigues couldn’t buy a run as an opener, scoring just 10 runs across three innings. As a matter of fact, she could amass only three 30-plus scores in 14 innings across formats since her twin fifties in the ODI and T20I series against Windies before the T20 World Cup. Her failure to capitalize on starts and failed to accelerate - a hallmark of her batting in the formative years - is going to cost big-time as India have found a sensation in the form of Shafali Verma.

However, does Rodrigues deserve a place at No.3 - her usual batting position at the start of her career? However, with Punam Raut doing what she did in the South Africa ODI series - 263 runs in five innings at an average of 87.66 - her position is a given. Skipper Mithali Raj and Vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur would follow next, which means Rodrigues will have to warm the bench against the English ladies. With an average of 21.22 across 19 ODI matches since her debut in 2018, the batter needs to realize her worth but for now, a place in the Playing XI is way too far-fetched to expect.

Beginning of Shafali era

In the pre-match press conference today, Mithali Raj confirmed that Shafali Verma - the most exciting young batter of the generation - would make her ODI debut in Bristol. "There will be times when she gives us a head start. We would love that to be consistent but at the same time she's a young kid, she'll learn with experience, she'll also learn how to build an innings. Since she's getting into playing the ODI format for the first time, I, as a captain, encourage her to play the way she enjoys playing and is comfortable playing, that's the style of batting she should do," Mithali said at the pre-match press conference ahead of the first ODI. 

For any 17-year-old, this must be a really comforting factor knowing the captain has her back and Shafali, the No.1 batter in T20I format, would be steadfast in her approach. The way she took the world by storm after being inducted into the T20I set-up in late 2019 and then made a mockery of all questions regarding her Test credentials, one could just expect another other-worldly performance from the Haryana girl. With Smriti Mandhana providing a calming presence at the other end, one wouldn’t be wrong in assuming she would don the fearless avatar to dazzle the world once again.

The combination question

India fielded both Deepti Sharma and Sneh Rana in the one-off Test match in Bristol, overlooking the likes of Ekta Bisht or Poonam Yadav. It was a tough call to make but as Mithali suggested after the game, it was Rana’s domestic performances and her form in the nets that propelled the selection. Now that Rana showed what she can do - both with the bat and the ball - will she get a go-ahead for the ODIs as well?

Lest that happens, it poses a tricky scenario for the team management. In the T20 World Cup, Yadav was the stand-out performer and outfoxed batters with her extremely slow and loopy leg spin. Bisht, on the other hand, has been a prolific bowler in domestic cricket, thus you wonder, will the side take the bait of dropping her for the ODIs? Dropping Pooja Vastrakar is most probable situation in the current scenario.

Predicted XI: Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Punam Raut, Mithali Raj (c), Harmanpreet Kaur, Deepti Sharma, Sneh Rana, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Shikha Pandey, Jhulan Goswami, Ekta Bisht

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India Women Tour of England, 2021India WomenEngland WomenJemimah RodriguesShafali VermaMithali Raj

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