ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020: From young Shafali Verma to experienced Harmanpreet Kaur, a detailed look at India squad

FirstCricket Staff

The ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020 gets underway in Australia on 21 February with the hosts taking on India. The Harmanpreet Kaur-led side have made the trip Down Under with the aim to script history. India Women have never been the World T20 champions and the closest they have come to the title is the last four stage on three occasion including in the last edition in 2018.

India have sent a 15-member squad for the new mission. And as we gear up for the mega event, let's take a look at the profiles of Indian players.

Harmanpreet Kaur (captain)

Harmanpreet Kaur was once taunted in her childhood for women's cricket being slow. What followed that incident has been a whirlwind of massive sixes, glorious records and path breaking milestones. Kaur debuted for India in 2009 and has been mainstay for the Indian team ever since. She got into the team first as a bowler but became the destructor-in-chief for Team India over the years. A glimpse of which was provided in the 2017 when she struck a rampaging 171* against Australia in ODI World Cup semi-final. That innings included seven sixes and 20 fours.

Her attacking game makes her an ideal player for the T20 format where she became the first Indian to score a century, against New Zealand at 2018 World T20. Her powerful exploits also led to Harmanpreet becoming the first Indian cricketer to sign for a WBBL side (Sydney Thunder) in 2016 before breaking another glass ceiling by signing for Surrey Stars of KIA Super League. In 109 T20Is, Kaur has scored 2156 runs with one century and six fifties. She also bowls some handy off-spin and has 29 wickets to her name, all coming at an economy rate of 6.13. She was made India's T20 captain in 2016 after the team's disastrous campaign at home at in World T20. After leading her side to the semi-final in the previous edition, Harmanpreet would only have one thing on her mind during the 2020 edition €" the title.

Smriti Mandhana

Only 23 years old, Smriti Mandhana is already a rage in women's cricket in India and across the globe. And a lot of it has to do with her swashbuckling batting which has made her fans sit and watch every time she comes to bat. While she may be junior to Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami, Harmanpreet Kaur by years, the left-handers' impact on women's cricket in India has been no less. Arguably the most popular Indian player of current time, the impact for her willow-work was realised when the story of of a young girl looking for Mandhana's jersey in a Nike store went viral in 2017. Mandhana made her foray into the international cricket only in 2013 but has scaled unprecedented heights in just seven years.

File image of Smriti Mandhana.

File image of Smriti Mandhana.

In 2018, Mandhana was declared the ICC Women's Cricketer of the Year, ODI Player of the Year. And found her name in both ODI and T20 teams of year in 2019. A hugely popular figure off the field, Mandhana has commercial contracts and constant presence in media interviews and of course contracts in overseas T20 leagues. But all of the the fame is down to her aggressive batting approach which has seen her accumulate 1667 runs in 71 T20Is at a strike rate of close to 120. She has also brought an end to India's constant opening woes and has proved to be one of the most reliable batters in the world. With her in their ranks, India have all the reasons to aim for silverware at the T20 World Cup.

Deepti Sharma

At 22, Deepti Sharma is among the senior pros in the India squad for the ICC Women's T20I World Cup. Having played 43 T20Is over the last three years, she would be one of India's key strengths at the mega event in Australia.

As mentioned by Harmanpreet Kaur during the recent tri-series, spin will play a huge role for Team India in the World Cup. From that standpoint, Deepti Sharma will have a big responsibility on her shoulders. As the only genuine right-arm off spinner in the team, Deepti's strength lies in containing the batters with her stump to stump bowling. Her economy (5.88) is among the best in the bowling ranks, reveals the same.

Born on 24 August, 1997 in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, Deepti started playing cricket at the age of 9 after she was spotted by Hemlata Kala, former chairperson of BCCI women's selection panel. After years of hard work and persistence and performances in state games, Deepti was picked up in India's one-day squad for home series against South Africa in 2014. From there, her cricketing journey began. She made her T20I debut two years later, in 2016, against Australia in Sydney. It is fitting that her journey comes full circle in Australia as she returns there with an aim to clinch India's first T20 World Cup title.

In the recent tri-series, involving Australia and England, she fared well with the ball in hand, picking up 6 wickets in five matches while being economical. It is her batting, in this format, however which is a big concern. The fact that Deepti has not been able to cross the 32-run mark in her 43 appearances for the team, tells her ordinary stint with the bat so far in this format.

The World Cup 2020 would want to witness Deepti Sharma, the complete all-rounder, coming to the fore.

Taniya Bhatia 

India's wicket-keeper/batswoman Taniya Bhatia is another young talent in the Indian women's team who has plenty of experience under her belt as far as the shortest format of the sport is concerned. Picked up in the T20I squad against South Africa in 2018 after displaying some good performances for India A and India Blue, Bhatia's been a constant in the team since then. While her bat has not done much of the talking, it is her wicket-keeping skills which give her an edge over others.

Taniya is someone who wanted to quit cricket when she was just 17 after suffering a long dull patch. Support from family and friends, however, kept her going before she received her maiden call up in February 2018.

At the recently concluded tri-series, Taniya faced a series of failures with the bat, which eventually led to the management sending her to bat at No 10 in the all-important final against Australia. Hopefully, this demotion has helped the 22-year-old from Punjab to make a strong comeback with the bat during the World Cup. Knowing her willingness to improve, expect Bhatia to come out with flying colours.

Shikha Pandey

Shikha Pandey finds herself leading the Indian bowling unit two years after senior pacer Jhulan Goswami decided to call it a day in the shortest format of the game in order to prolong her ODI career. And this after she was dropped from the side ahead of the 2018 Women's World T20, having had to fight her way back into the team and cement her spot in the side with a memorable performance against England at home last year.

And Pandey will play a key role to play in India's campaign on Aussie surfaces as the team attempts to register their maiden T20 World Cup triumph €" having finished semi-finalists thrice in the past, including in 2018.

Pandey stands out in a squad that boasts of a sizeable spin-bowling contingent, and is one of the few members of the World Cup contingent to have played Test cricket. The 30-year-old Telangana native has a total of 106 international wickets from 99 appearances across formats since breaking into the Indian team in 2014, and she will hope to utilise that experience once India's campaign gets underway in the opening game of the tournament against hosts Australia in Sydney on 21 February. What also comes handy for the team is her ability to contribute valuable runs down the order at her usual positions of No 8 or 9, with a couple of fifties to her credit in the 50-over format.

This will also be her first appearance in an ICC tournament since the 2017 Women's World Cup, in which the Mithali Raj-led side finished runners-up, losing narrowly to hosts England in the final. She had earlier represented Team India in the 2014 and 2016 T20 World Cups (then called the World T20)

In addition to her achievements on the field, Pandey's is also a squadron leader with the Indian Air Force, having joined the IAF back in 2011 and being appointed as an air traffic controller the following year.

Pooja Vastrakar

Vastrakar's made just one appearance so far this year €" the opening game of the recently-concluded Women's T20 triangular series between India and England at Canberra. Her only contribution in the series was a solitary over, conceding nine runs from it as the team management opted to go with Arundhati Reddy as Shikha Pandey's seam-bowling partner for the remainder of the series, including the final in which India suffered an 11-run loss to hosts Australia.

The 20-year-old Bilaspur native will however, hope to put the bygone series behind and focus on what will be her first appearance in an ICC event. Vastrakar pipped senior pacer Pandey to find her name included in the squad for the 2018 Women's T20 World Cup, but was ruled out after injuring her knee in a warm-up game against hosts West Indies, leading to Devika Vaidya being called up as her replacement. Provided she maintains her fitness this time around, Vastrakar will have to stave off competition from Reddy for the second seamer's slot with Pandey leading the spin-heavy attack.

Vastrakar made her debut in both white-ball formats against the Proteas in India's tour of South Africa in 2018, in which India won both the ODI and T20I legs by 2-1 and 3-1 series margins respectively. She was also included in the subsequent triangular series featuring Australia and England at home, as well as in the Women's Asia Cup €" in which she picked up her career-best figures of 3/6 to bowl Malaysia out for just 27 and help India win by a humongous 142 runs.

Injury woes however, kept her out of the Indian team for a lengthy period, the seamer ultimately making her comeback in the home series against South Africa last September.

Like several other bowlers in the squad, Vastrakar comes into the side as a handy batter €" having a strike-rate of 125 in her 20 T20I appearances in her two-year career.

Veda Krishnamurthy

Hailing from Karnataka's Chikkamagaluru district, Veda Krishnamurthy began her cricketing journey with the Karnataka's women team at an early age of 13.

The right-handed batswoman shone on her India ODI debut against England in the NatWest Women's Quadrangular Series (2011) with a half-century (51). Her T20I debut was also in the same tour of England in a match against Australia. Thereafter, however, she failed to make much of an impact and was out of action for three years. During this period, she worked with the Indian Railways in Delhi and fine tuned her game, only to come back stronger.

Krishnamurthy was a part of the Indian squad for the 2017 Women's Cricket World Cup which managed to reach the final but had to settle for a nine-run loss against England. She scored 35 runs in the match. Earlier in the tournament, the middle-order batswoman played a major part in the quarter-final against New Zealand, wherein she hammered a 45-ball 70 €" a match where her idol Mithali Raj starred with a century.

A natural strokemaker, she was signed by Big Bash League (BBL) franchise Hobart Hurricanes in October 2017 €" becoming only the third Indian woman to bag a contract in Australia's T20 league.

In 2018, during her 56-run knock in the third ODI against South Africa, she added another feather to her cap after becoming the youngest Indian woman to score 1000 runs.

Krishnamurthy featured in the Indian squad during the 2018 ICC Women's T20 tournament and more recently, has been named in the squad for the 2020 ICC Women's World Cup in Australia €" making it clear that she's an indispensable part of India's limited-overs team. Come the World Cup, she will be looking to prove her mettle and provide India with some explosive finishes down the order.

Harleen Kaur 

Punjab-born Harleen Kaur represents Himachal Pradesh in domestic cricket. The 21-year-old is certainly one to watch out for the future.

The right-handed batswoman made her ODI debut for India against England during the ICC Women's Championship at Mumbai (22 February 2019) €" the only ODI she's played for so far. In T20Is, she debuted against England at Guwahati on 4 March 2019.

Besides, Harleen made her IPL T20 challenge debut for Trailblazers in May 2019, wherein she scored 36 and was involved in a 100-run stand with Smriti Mandhana.

In the six T2OIs that Kaur has played so far, she has only scored 23 runs and picked up four wickets. Even though she's at a nascent stage in her career, these statistics surely don't do justice to the talent that Kaur possesses.

Apart from being an aggressive right-handed batswoman, she is also capable of chipping in with her off-break bowling. If worked upon, she can well qualify as a genuine all-rounder.

Having made it to India's squad for the ICC 2020 Women's World Cup, Kaur will be aware of the tremendous opportunity that lies before her and look to capitalise on the same.

 Shafali Verma

Radha Yadav

Her 43 wickets in 32 T20Is might stand pale in comparison to the other Yadav in the team, Poonam's intimidating tally of 85 wickets. However, Radha makes up for that with an economy rate of just over six. Add to that, she is just 19-years-old, which means that her performances thus far are only a prelude for better things to come, in what promises to be a long and fruitful career in international women's cricket.

Radha, whose father is a vegetable vendor in Mumbai's Kandivli locality, has revealed in interviews that she wasn't aware of an Indian women's team when she had started playing cricket. For a long time, Radha was under the impression that should she perform well in domestic cricket, she'll be picked to play alongside the stalwarts in the Indian men's team. After all, she had become accustomed to training alongside male cricketers, also smashing them for boundaries all over the park.

However, with time, as Radha trained under the tutelage of Praful Naik in Borivli, batting took a backseat as she was encouraged to hone her skills as a slow left-arm orthodox bowler. In 2015, Radha made her debut in domestic cricket for Mumbai. When her coach moved to Baroda, Radha followed him there as she felt that Naik would be instrumental in helping her realise her dreams of playing for the Indian team.

That move paid rich dividends as Radha made her debut in 2018 against the South Africa Women's team. While she is yet to make her ODI debut, Radha has cemented her place in the Indian T20I side. Further, Radha is the highest-ranked Indian at No 4, in the ICC player rankings for Women's T20Is. India are sure to bank heavily on the 19-year-old during the upcoming ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020.

Arundhati Reddy

Born in Hyderabad in October 1997, Indian all-rounder Arundhati Reddy started playing cricket when she was 12 with her brother and soon her parents noticed her keen interest.

Arundhati started her professional career with the Hyderabad U-19 cricket team. And just six months after her youth debut, she soon found herself a place in the senior team set-up.

However, her big breakthrough came in 2017, when she got hired by South Central Railways as a junior clerk.

As a result, this also led her to switch sides from Hyderabad to Indian Railways in terms of cricket career.

Switching sides, though, came as a blessing for the youngster, as she scalped 23 wickets and scored 229 runs from just 14 matches across formats in the 2017-18 season, including a five-wicket haul against Rajasthan€"registering figures of 5/10.

Following her brilliant all-round season, she was named in India's squad for their tour to Sri Lanka in August. Incidentally, the day she was named in the squad, veteran speedster Jhulan Goswami hung up her boots from T20s. In the Sri Lanka T20Is, she scalped four wickets from as many T20Is, and was also eventually named in the squad for the ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2018 in West Indies.

Despite India reaching the semi-finals, the tournament was not much of a personal success for Arundhati, having scalped just two wickets and failing to produce impressive batting displays.

She was also named in the Supernovas' squad for the Women's T20 Challenge in May last year, but failed to play even a single match in the tournament

Surely, Arundhati is going through a rough patch, but this will be an opportunity to stamp her name on the world's biggest stage as she gears up to play a crucial role in India's T20 World Cup campaign.

Rajeshwari Gayakwad

Bijapur-born Rajeshwari Gayakwad has been an influential player in India women team's set-up since 2014, the year she made her international debut in both ODI and T20I formats against Sri Lanka.

Most of her family members have been involved with sports in one way or the other. While her sister Rameshwari has played many state-level matches with Rajeshwari for Karnataka, her second sister Bhuaneshwari is a hockey player. Her two brothers are sportspersons as well.

However, her main primary figure of inspiration to take up cricket has been her father Shivanand. She started pursuing the sport at the age of 18. Rajeshwari went through a difficult phase when her father passed away in 2014 due to cardiac arrest while watching a T20I.

Despite going through a tough phase in her personal life, Rajeshwari has gone onto become one of the most-reputed women cricketers. The left-arm-orthodox bowler has 67 wickets in just 40 ODIs with her best figures of 5/15 coming against New Zealand in the 2017 World Cup. She also enjoyed a decent run of form in the Women's T20 Challenge, ending up as the third highest wicket-taker with three scalps. Meanwhile, she has 30 wickets from just 23 T20Is, and her excellent bowling form will be extremely crucial for the Women in Blue in the upcoming T20 World Cup.

Jemimah Rodrigues

The 19-year-old batswoman from Mumbai, Jemimah is known equally for her impressive strokemaking as she is for her jovial behaviour off the field. You would spot her making a mockery of the bowlers on the field and recording 'Jemi's Bouncers' after it for the BCCI social media team.

Jemimah's sporting journey has two loves: cricket and hockey. When asked by a user if she would opt to play for the country in hockey with her cricket career already underway, she queried:"why not (do) both?"

The 19-year-old nicknamed 'Jemi' was envisaged as a future hockey player for India by former national team coach Joachim Carvalho. But she was destined to hold the cricket bat and not the hockey stick. Hockey's loss, cricket's gain.

When the time came to pick a career path between hockey and cricket, it wasn't easy. She had been picked for the U-17 and U-19 Maharashtra hockey sides but went with cricket only because she had reached a higher level.

Coached by her father Ivan since the very beginning, Jemimah played competitive cricket at just 13 in the U-19 category. Fast forward to 2017, she became the second woman (after Smriti Mandhana) to score a double ton in a 50-over match and that proved to be a turning point. Impressive performances in domestic circuit earned her the Jagmohan Dalmiya Award by the BCCI.

In February she made her T20I debut and a month later played her first ODI for the country. In her first big tournament - the T20 World Cup in 2018 in West Indies - she went in with plenty of promise and came out as the standout performer in the win against Pakistan.

Rodrigues. Rod-rigs. Get the name right, you're going to be saying it for some time in the future.

Also See: ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020: Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma highlight India's four-star teenage presence in squad

ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020: Schedule, squads, venues and all you need to know about upcoming tournament

ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020: India's Jemimah Rodrigues says opening clash against Australia will be one of the most important in her career

Read more on First Cricket News by Firstpost.