The retirement of Mithali Raj has brought an end to an incredible era in Indian women's cricket that lasted for over two decades. The likes of Mithali and Jhulan Goswami were instrumental in inspiring a generation of girls to take up cricket as a professional sport in India.
It all came together beautifully for the Women in Blue as they went all the way to the final of the 2017 Women's World Cup in England and the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia. On both occasions, India couldn't cross the final hurdle.
Nevertheless, these performances have created stars like Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur, who have become senior members of the current Indian women's team.
The Women in Blue would have been distraught with the way they lost against Australia in the opening encounter of the Commonwealth Games 2022. However, there were a lot of positives to take from it.
Even the possibility of a Women's IPL next year will only help deepen the pool of talent in Indian women's cricket.
On that note, let's take a look at five players who will take the baton from the current seniors and are likely to take the Women in Blue to new heights:
#5 Renuka Singh Thakur
One of the greatest fast bowlers women's cricket has ever seen, Jhulan Goswami, in her prime had the ability to run through opposition batting line-ups. There were quite a few questions raised as to who would play that role in the Indian team in the future.
However, Renuka Singh Thakur stepped up against Australia on Friday and has perhaps promised to be the answer to these questions. She bowled all four overs upfront and made the ball swing both ways.
World-class batters like Alyssa Healy, Meg Lanning, Beth Mooney, and all-rounder Tahlia McGrath had no answers to her accuracy as they were all dismissed inside the powerplay.
Thakur has 10 wickets from five ODIs and seven scalps from six T20Is. Although she is very young in her career, she has shown the potential to become one of the best bowlers in women's cricket in the coming years.
#4 Jemimah Rodrigues
Quite a few eyebrows were raised when Jemimah Rodrigues missed out on the flight to New Zealand for the Women's World Cup. At the moment, she is being looked at purely as a T20 specialist and has become a vital cog in the middle-order alongside Harmanpreet Kaur.
However, one of the biggest problems that Team India faced in the World Cup was the lack of urgency in the middle overs. This is something that could change if Rodrigues becomes a part of the ODI team once again. She is a busy player who always focuses on keeping the scoreboard ticking.
The 21-year-old was also sensational in last year's edition of The Hundred and has shown her versatility to shift gears based on the situation. If she remains consistent, she could easily have more than a decade of international cricket ahead of her and very well become a regular for the Women in Blue across formats.
#3 Pooja Vastrakar
Seam bowling all-rounders have become important in modern-day cricket, where teams strive for balance. While teams like Australia and England have quite a few options, India seem to have unearthed a star in Pooja Vastrakar.
Vastrakar has the ability to swing the new ball as well as bowl yorkers at the death. She showed in the Women's World Cup 2022 game against Pakistan that she is no slouch with the bat either, having had a match-winning knock of 67(59).
The 22-year-old has not yet reached Birmingham with the team as she tested positive and the Women in Blue felt her absence dearly. She is another youngster who has the potential to reach the level of Nat Sciver as an all-rounder.
#2 Shafali Verma
At the age of just 18, Shafali Verma has already become a crucial component of India's white-ball team due to the damage that she can do at the top of the order. Her consistent assaults in the powerplay were one of the main reasons why India made it to the final of the T20 World Cup a couple of years ago.
Even in the longer formats of the game, Verma has shown that she has the presence of mind to build an innings, and will only get better with more years of experience under her belt.
Her crucial 48 against Australia on Friday, when India lost Mandhana early, showed that she can also score when the team is under the pump. If she is able to fulfill her potential, Verma could well end up being one of the most destructive batters in women's cricket ever.
#1 Kiran Navgire
Kiran Navgire is probably an unexpected name on this list for some, but many who follow women's cricket at the domestic level would very well know what kind of a player she is. She had to move to play for Nagaland as she didn't get many chances from Maharashtra.
However, she began to grab eyeballs with her incredible performances, like the one in the 2021-22 Senior Women's T20 Trophy. Navgire smashed 162 runs off just 76 balls, becoming the first Indian to cross the 150-run mark in T20 cricket.
She also scored the fastest fifty in the Women's T20 Challenge this year, grabbing the spotlight at the right time. Although she is yet to make her India debut, her incredible hitting ability makes her a rare gem that needs to be preserved.
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