On 21st September 2021, Indian Women will set the ball rolling in their tour Down Under. At Harrup Park in Mackay, the Mithali Raj-led side would like to overcome the setback suffered on their last overseas venture. A 1-2 defeat on English soil vividly exposed the loopholes in the lineup.
If the Indian team fancies turning the tide and posing a stiff challenge to the mighty Aussies, a significant alteration in the XI and the approach is essential.
Indian Women's opening pair looks settled
The onus of granting the team a quick, solid start has been on the pair of the ever-elegant Smriti Mandhana and the young swashbuckling opener Shafali Verma. When either of the two occupies the crease for a longer duration, it augurs well for the side. The team's scope of chasing down a stiff total or posting a defendable score enhances considerably.
Jemimah Rodrigues, who had been on a poor run and had to be dropped for the T20 series against England, should retain her place in the ODI side. A stellar showing in the recently concluded The Hundred tournament should see her come one down in the batting order.
Mithali Raj can hold fort; others need to escalate their scoring rate
The Indian skipper has been the backbone of the middle order. Mithali Raj has been influential in preventing batting collapses or alleviating damage in case of any. However, other players have been on and off, with their evident struggle to rotate the strike harming the Indian Women's team cause.
Harmanpreet Kaur, Mithali's deputy, depicted some signs of a return to form while playing for Manchester Originals. The team would like the T20 captain to find her mojo back and lend the required firepower. It will be a formidable task as she has been recovering from a quadriceps injury.
The Indian Women's ODI side requires sweeping changes in their overall approach, especially in the middle and death overs. The likes of Taniya Bhatia and Deepti Sharma should play more freely and up the ante.
Mithali Raj can beautifully hold up one end and showcase her sheer class from time to time. Without keeping the scoreboard ticking, this Indian Women's ODI side cannot aspire to play neck to neck with the big names in the sport.
Given her exploits as an all-rounder, Deepti has become indispensable to the Indian Women setup. However, her relatively low strike rate puts a huge question mark over her spot in the lower-middle order. She could be assigned the role of a floater, with the team playing its cards based on the game situation.
The likes of Pooja Vastrakar and Richa Ghosh should be granted the opportunity to wield the long handle and propel the score. The latter can make her ODI debut if Taniya Bhatia continues to fail with the bat.
Pacers needs to step up and reduce the burden on Jhulan Goswami
The Indian Women's pace department has been excessively dependent on the seasoned campaigner, Jhulan Goswami. Shikha Pandey and Pooja Vastrakar need to rise to the occasion and churn out effective performances constantly.
The Indian Women's team can also hand the ODI cap to Meghna Singh, who plays for Railways in the domestic sphere. On the spin front, Poonam Yadav should spearhead the attack with her leg-spin. The all-rounders will chip in with their off-breaks.
It is important to note that India lost to Australia by 36 runs today in a warm-up game. It becomes even more necessary now to have a look at the squad and keep their morale up before the main series begins.
Indian Women (likely XI): Mithali Raj (Captain), Harmanpreet Kaur (vice-captain), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wicket-keeper), Shikha Pandey, Jhulan Goswami, Pooja Vastrakar, Poonam Yadav.