The ICC Women’s World T20 2018 begins on November 9. The tournament is yet another chance for women’s cricket to grow – more than what it did after the ODI World Cup last year. And it is also an opportunity for Team India to win their first global T20I silverware.
Hopes are high from the India Eves after their terrific campaign in the ODI World Cup last year, in which nobody expected them to reach the finals. The runners-up trophy changed the face of women’s cricket in India, and the girls no longer remained adjuncts to their better-known male counterparts. But to replicate their 50-over success in the shortest version may be a tumultuous task for the women in blue, whose biggest bane is lack of experience.
The last time India travelled to Windies was in 2012 under the captaincy of Anjum Chopra. Only Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Ekta Bisht were a part of that team. Nobody else in the current World T20 squad has played in the island nation. Six out of the 15-member team have not even played any ICC tournament earlier.
No Jhulan Goswami – pace attack reeks inexperience
India’s biggest weakness will be the absence of veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami, who retired from the T20I format earlier this year. 56 wickets in 68 T20Is explain how crucial Jhulan was to India’s campaign in the world T20. Her retirement came just three months ahead of the marquee tournament, which shocked several.
It was widely assumed that in Jhulan’s absence, Shikha Pandey, who has been with the team since 2014, will be the pace spearhead. But Pandey disappointed on the recent tour of Sri Lanka.
Choosing an ideal replacement for the West Bengal bowler was thus a tough task for the selection committee. But they went in with a three-member pace department comprising of Arundhati Reddy, Mansi Joshi and Pooja Vastrakar. Reddy, 21, has played only 5 T20Is. Vastrakar, 19, has featured in 11 T20Is. Joshi, who played the ODI World Cup last year, has played just two T20Is. Their combined T20I experience is 18 games, 50 short of Jhulan’s glorious T20I career of 68.
The pace battery reeks inexperience, and none of them is even remotely close to the greatness of Goswami. She conceded her 35-year-old body was no longer able to take the rigours twenty-twenty cricket, and for all that she has achieved in the past, you cannot deny her the freedom to make a choice.
Tushar Arothe, who was replaced by former India spinner Ramesh Powar as the team’s head coach, criticised the selection of the pacers. In an interview to CricketNext, Arothe said, “My concern is the fast bowling department. I am not happy with it at all. Mansi is short of match practice, Pooja is inexperienced, and we don’t have Shikha Pandey in the team. So, is the team going to play with only one pacer? And if that is the case, it’s going to backfire.”
No reserve wicketkeeper and Harmanpreet Kaur’s average captaincy
India will be playing the tournament without any back-up for 20-year-old wicketkeeper Taniya Bhatia. Bhatia put up impressive performances with both the bat and the gloves on the tour of Sri Lanka and has an experience of playing 20 T20Is. But if there arises a need for her replacement, India will be in deep trouble.
Veda Krishnamurthy is the only other players with little wicketkeeping experience in the team. But with one stumping to her name in international cricket, Veda is not the one you can rely on.
Harmanpreet Kaur’s T20I captaincy has come under the scanner time and again. Kaur, who is captaining the side since 2016, has often been questioned for her strange on-field decisions and selection calls.
To recall some of her worse series as the skipper. India suffered an early exit in a tri-series at home earlier this year, which involved Australia and England. In the subsequent Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur in June, India renounced the title to Bangladesh.
The recent 4-1 series win over Sri Lanka will hopefully give Kaur more confidence going into the tournament, but she will have to reconsider her haste decision making and impulsiveness.
The go-to players for the team
Spinner Ekta Bisht has an impressive T20I resume. The only Indian woman to take a hat-trick in any format and the only Indian in both the ICC Women’s ODI and T20I teams of the year, Bisht can make the most of the pitch conditions in Guyana, where spinners thrive. India’s highest wicket-taker in T20Is, Poonam Yadav’s legspin will be equally crucial.
Jemimah Rodrigues does not have enough experience, but she has sufficient talent. Kaur and Smriti Mandhana have plenty of experience in playing T20 franchise cricket – notably the Big Bash League. Raj – the linchpin of India’s batting for nearly two decades, will be hoping that her last World T20I is a memorable one.
Kaur too can do an MS Dhoni if you lend her confidence
This team brings to mind the MS Dhoni-led Indian team from the inaugural men’s World T20 in 2007. Dhoni was new on the international stage, and so were most others in the organization. Nobody expected India to win the tournament because the squad lacked experience and confidence both. But what followed, brought about a revolution in Indian T20 cricket. The very next year, the Indian Premier League too came into being.
Hopefully, Kaur’s young girls will beat all odds to create history. If they could do it last year in the ODI World Cup, they can do it this year too. Perhaps, a little bit of confidence from their fans is all that they need to do the unthinkable.