The BCCI has announced the official women’s team for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Harmanpreet Kaur will skipper the squad in Birmingham, which will host the inaugural edition of the women’s T-20Is. Moreover, opening batsman Smriti Mandhana will serve as the capable second-in-command of the roster.
Sneh Rana, Harleen Deol, and wicketkeeper Taniya Bhatiya also return to the squad.
Sneh Rana, the most noteworthy player to return to the team, missed the Sri Lanka tour due to an injury that kept her at the NCA for recovery. Yastika Bhatia will be the team’s first-choice wicketkeeper.
Simran Bahadur and Poonam Yadav, both veteran leg-spinners, have also been picked as stand-by players for the event.
India is in Group A with Australia, Pakistan and Barbados. On July 29, they will face Australia in the competition kickoff. Group B consists of hosts England, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sri Lanka. The top two teams of each group will advance to the semi-finals.
Team India: Harmanpreet Kaur (C), Smriti Mandhana (VC), Shafali Verma, S. Meghana, Taniya Sapna Bhatia (Wk), Yastika Bhatia (Wk), Deepti Sharma, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Pooja Vastrakar, Meghna Singh, Renuka Thakur, Jemimah Rodrigues, Radha Yadav, Harleen Deol, Sneh Rana.
Except for Harmanpreet Kaur and Harleen Deol, the majority of India’s pure strikers of the ball are top-order batters.
Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Sabbhineni Meghana, Jemimah Rodrigues are all opening batters, and even Yastika Bhatia, who is set to keep wickets in the event, bats in the top order. Despite Harmanpreet being slated to bat at No. 4, India will have to figure out a way to integrate all these players into the squad.
In the first T-20I against Sri Lanka, Rodrigues played at No. 5 and hit a game-winning 36* off 27 balls. She might well be entrusted with a similar task at the Commonwealth games, although her absence of power-hitting prowess could work against her.
Meghana, who scored 39 runs in 3 games in Sri Lanka, might be dropped to the bench or pushed down the pecking order in preference of Rodrigues or Yastika. Whatever lineup shuffle India does, a few players will undoubtedly come out to bat at untested positions.
While the top of the order is loaded with batters, the “FINISHER” category has little competition. Although quality all-rounders like Deepti Sharma and Sneh Rana can produce with the bat, their strike rates of 92.03 and 102.27 in T-20Is don’t inspire much confidence.
Pooja Vastrakar, whose strike rate is 131.42, has been in excellent form recently and might be the secret weapon in this area. Furthermore, the exclusion of Richa Ghosh makes the problem at hand look even worse.
The youthful keeper-batter renowned for her explosive attack style had been out of touch for a period, culminating in her expulsion. Richa’s absence has deprived India of a power-hitting alternative further down the rankings.
Taniya Bhatia’s strike rate was heavily debated following the team selection. Taniya’s glovework is superb, but she is not recognized for her power-hitting. Richa should have been included in the team to provide skipper Harmanpreet with another option.
There is also the possibility of making Harmanpreet come at No. 5 to rebalance the batting lineup, but it may not be the smartest move for the team or the players.
It would give the star batters of the squad insufficient time to adjust before shifting gears. Harmanpreet is known for taking her time in the beginning. Halting her arrival will also hamper India’s batting prowess.
With just two genuine speedsters in the squad, it’s evident that India will rely heavily on spinners. Renuka Singh starred in the Sri Lanka ODIs, claiming 7 wickets in 3 matches, and therefore can be a viable solution with the new ball alongside Meghna Singh.
When it comes to spin, it’s no shock that experienced Poonam Yadav has been included on the reserve list after not featuring in a single match during the Sri Lanka series.
With her lack of quickness, the leg-spinner has struggled to cope with the pressure of the women’s game’s fast-developing T-20 format. Her omission, on the other hand, has left India without a legitimate wrist-spinner who may have been a game-changer.
The bulk of the spin responsibilities is projected to be undertaken by Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Deepti Sharma. While both are world-class in their own terms, the sketchy picture of India’s spin unit cannot be overlooked.
Overall, India has a great bowling attack and a top-order that may guarantee them a positive start; nevertheless, the ultimate test will be how the middle and lower order fares in crucial matches, which might determine India’s fate at the event.