A little over a year after an inspired run that led them to the World Cup final, the Indian women’s team is set for its biggest challenge of 2018: the World T20 in West Indies.
The ten-team competition gets underway on Friday, 9 November, with India taking on New Zealand in the tournament opener at Guyana.
Last year’s exploits in England had announced the likes of Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana – now captain and vice-captain of the T20I team – as household names.
So who among the Women in Blue are contenders to grab the attention over the course of a fortnight’s action in the Caribbean islands? The Quint brings you up to speed.
1. Jemimah Rodrigues
Of the three teenagers in India’s 15-woman squad, Rodrigues boasts of the most known profile. She burst into the limelight last year by becoming only the second Indian woman to hit a double hundred in a 50-over game, and hasn’t looked back since.
Also Read: Meet Jemimah Rodrigues: A Star in the Making
The team management’s bid to provide enough international exposure ahead of Rodrigues’ maiden big-ticket competition has resulted in 14 T20Is since her debut in February, and the spark has been there to see.
The 18-year-old is expected to slot in at No. 3 in the Indian setup, providing flair around a batting order not devoid of experience.
A strike rate of 137.14 compares rather favourably with existing middle-order standards – Indian or otherwise – and with two of her three T20I fifties coming in India’s 4-0 series win in Sri Lanka in September, Rodrigues enters the WT20 in a rich vein of form.
2. Taniya Bhatia
Bhatia, like Rodrigues, debuted as recently as February 2018, during India’s tour of South Africa. But despite middling returns with the bat, the 20-year-old appears to have the faith of the team management – India have opted for no back-up ‘keeper for their West Indian travels (Veda Krishnamurthy, with one stumping to her name in internationals, is the only other player with any wicket-keeping experience in the squad).
Forty-six of Bhatia’s 66 international runs have come in a single outing, with the middle-order batter failing to cross five in any of her six other attempts with the bat.
But with 15 stumpings, the Chandigarh-born seems equipped to carry a vital responsibility in a team stacked with spin-bowling options.
3. Radha Yadav
Speaking of spin: did you know the Indian squad in West Indies features a teenager who until some years ago didn’t know that women’s cricket existed in the country?
Now you do.
Eighteen-year-old Radha Yadav, originally from Mumbai but plying her cricketing trade in Vadodara, Gujarat, may have been a late bloomer and not quite a child prodigy like Jemimah once was – but she has done enough in a brief international career to displace 2017 WWC performer Rajeshwari Gayakwad from the setup.
With three frontline spinners, and at least three if not four spin-bowling all-rounders in the XV, it’s clear what India’s modus operandi with the ball is going to be in the Caribbean – and that might make it hard for Radha to slot into India’s XI.
4. Arundhati Reddy
With so much focus on spin, where are the pacers in the Indian camp? With Jhulan Goswami gone from the shortest format, 21-year-old Reddy has been tasked with leading India’s fast-bowling line along with the more-seasoned Mansi Joshi.
The Andhra girl is the newest in the Indian setup, having only earned her maiden international cap during the T20Is in Sri Lanka – but her pace, and lower-order slogging abilities, have quickly won over the management.
Reddy has been vocal about her excitement on sharing a dressing room with fellow-Hyderabadi Mithali Raj, and is known to be an ardent fan of Jasprit Bumrah.
5. Pooja Vastrakar
Another death bowling aspirant, hoping to take forward Goswami’s fine legacy, is Vastrakar – who, in her first year in international cricket, already holds a batting world record in ODIs.
In March, playing only her second ODI, the 18-year-old walked out to bat against Australia with India in a position of strife at 113/7 – and went on to become the first No. 9 batter in women’s ODI history to hit a half century.
Vastrakar’s wicket-taking abilities, though, are likely to come in more handy during the World T20; with 12 wickets in 11 T20Is, and an economy under 7, she’s shown enough to suggest bigger things could await with the ball.
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