We are less than three months away from the most coveted tournament in the history of women's cricket as the T20 World Cup kick starts in early February amid growing fanfare in the land of the Proteas.
The last edition of the extravaganza in 2020 Down Under, right before the pandemic hit us, showcased India's rise in the shortest format and marked a beginning of a new era under the leadership of Harmanapreet Kaur.
Almost 20 months to the glorious day at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground that shattered numerous records, India have improved leaps and bounds and are now truly a force to reckon with in world cricket.
There ain't any doubt that as Harmanpreet and her young team embark on their journey to South Africa, there will be glaring eyes of the media and expectations from millions of fans.
With an eye on the mega event in 90 days, the Women in Blue kick-start their preparations with a five-match T20I series against defending champions Australia at home starting December 9.
While the Indian team have most of their bases covered, there were a couple of chinks in the armour, especially the role of a leg spinner and finding an ideal finisher as they strive to win the elusive title.
A week after drawing curtains to a riveting Challenger Trophy involving four teams and the top 60 players in the domestic circuit, the selectors have made four changes to the squad that won the Asia Cup in September in Sri Lanka.
While the exclusion of Pooja Vastrakar is a forced change due to an injury, the team management have strengthened the side with a plethora of all-rounders, giving them plenty of options heading into the marquee event.
Welcome back, Devika Vaidya
A young 17-year-old was handed her debut cap on 30th November 2014 at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru against South Africa with the hope of solving India's all-rounder puzzle.
However, little did she know it was going to be her only T20I match for the country as she was dropped for future games owing to one lukewarm performance.
After eight years of hiatus and grueling hours of domestic cricket with some top-notch performances, Devika Vaidya is back in the squad after impressing in the Senior Women's Challenger Trophy and the domestic T20 tournament.
Along with Harleen Deol, who also makes a comeback to the side, Vaidya will form the two leg-spinning options for Harmanpreet Kaur in the series. The duo have scalped nine wickets a piece in the inter-zonal competition and are among the leading wicket-takers in the league.
While Harleen followed it up with 124 runs in four innings of the Challenger Trophy, Devika played some useful cameos lower down the batting order for India B, including an unbeaten 41 off 27 deliveries to help her side chase 141 runs.
With Poonam Yadav completely off the radar due to her poor performances at the international level and the ability of Shafali Verma and Harmanpreet to contribute with their off-spin, the inclusion of Vaidya and Deol as the away-going option adds a lot more variety to the Indian bowling unit.
Say hello to Anjali Sarvani
And while we are on the topic of adding variety to the bowling unit, the selectors have also handed a maiden call-up to Anjali Sarvani. A young left-arm seamer who toiled hard in her early days for Andhra Pradesh before switching to Railways in the last couple of years.
The 25-year-old was the leading wicket-taker in the domestic T20 tournament with 17 wickets in 10 innings at a strike rate of 10.23 and conceded at an economy rate of 3.34 runs per over.
Opening the bowling, she was the catalyst behind Railways recording yet another national championship. She often dismantled batting units with her swing and ability to move the ball into the right-handers.
The five-match series will be like a curtain-raiser for Sarvani, and India would hope she grabs this opportunity with both hands as she will not only add a different dimension with her left-arm abilities but also be the perfect foil to Renuka on the fast and bouncy wickets in Africa.
The curious case of Sneh Rana
While there is a sense of joy and excitement for the players who secured their place in the squad, there is one player who must be particularly disappointed for missing out.
While the exclusion of Kiran Navgire and Hemalatha were on expected lines, the case of Sneh Rana seems to be a little more shocking as the off-spinner was one of the mainstays in the playing XI of the Indian side.
There ain't any doubt that the 28-year-old is enduring a dismal phase in the last six months, but her performance in the recently concluded Asia Cup, where she scalped seven wickets, was promising to say the least.
While there is no clarity if she missed out due to her form or if she is carrying some niggle, her exclusion will be a topic of discussion in the coming days.
End of the road for Kiran Navgire and D Hemalatha?
In the away series against England and the Asia Cup, India provided opportunities to Navgire to showcase her skill as an able finisher down the order.
However, the right-handed batter failed to grab her chances and managed to score only 17 runs in four innings at an average of 5.5 and a strike rate of 89.47, leading to her downfall.
Along with Navgire, another player who made a comeback for the two series was D Hemalatha. The 28-year-old was assigned the role of batting at number three in the absence of Jemimah but could not make the most of it and scored only 64 runs in seven innings at an average of 12.8.
With plenty of youngsters coming through the ranks and India relying on all-rounders to lend balance to the side, the duo will have a tough time returning to the side.
(Anjali Sarvani image courtesy: BCCI Women twitter)