The upcoming tour of Sri Lanka will be the first series for India Women in the post-Mithali Raj era, with the 39-year old having announced her retirement from international cricket earlier this month after a 23-year long illustrious career.
Harmanpreet Kaur, who has been captaining India in the T20 format since 2018, believes it will be easier for her and the team going forward now that she has also been named as the ODI captain.
“When two different captains were there, sometimes things were not easy because we (Mithali and I) both had different ideas,” she said.
“Now it’s easy for me to ask them (my teammates) what I am expecting from them. Things will be much easier for me and clear for my teammates also.”
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On being asked if she planned to utilise herself as a proper all-rounder in the ODIs, not having been given much opportunity to bowl before, Harmanpreet Kaur said that she planned the same not just for herself but her teammates who wanted to prove themselves.
“Yes, definitely, not only me…this season we have seen Shafali also doing really well with her bowling. As a captain, I am very open with ideas. You were right when you said, ‘I didn’t get the opportunity (to bowl much in the ODIs).’ But this time whoever is doing well, I will definitely give them a chance.”
As a part-time bowler, Kaur had made a significant contribution with the ball in India’s last outing, a must win World Cup group stage game against South Africa. Kaur had registered figures of 2/42 in her eight overs. The Indian fans were left surprised when she wasn’t given the ball in the final overs having already picked the wickets of Laura Woolvardt and Sune Luus.
India will return to action for the first time since their heartbreaking exit out of the 2022 World Cup. A three-match T20I and as many ODIs series will be played in Dambulla and Kandy respectively starting with the first T20I on 23rd June.
Kaur, who was already leading the T20 side, offered her tribute to Mithali Raj, saying there’s no one who can fill the vacuum left behind by the former India captain.
“If we talk about Mithali di, I don’t think there’s anyone who can take her place,” Kaur said. “We all know what she has contributed to women’s cricket. We will always miss her in our dressing room.”
On what lies ahead for her team going into the Sri Lanka series, the 33-year old said, “I think it’s a great opportunity for all of us to build a team, I think we have done great preparation during this NCA camp.”
The Indian squad had gathered for a short camp at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore earlier this week ahead of their departure for Sri Lanka.
Further, on the kind of cricket she expected from the team in the ODI format, Harmanpreet stated that she was positive the team could breach the 300-run mark more often.
“We did set some goals during the World Cup where we were looking for 300 runs but we were only able to score 280-270,” she said.
“This time, I think we will be going to score more than 300 runs because now we do have some players who are playing really good cricket. We can look for a bigger score for us.”
‘Great opportunity for young pacers in the absence of Jhulan, Shikha and Rana’
One of the bigger question marks post India’s squad announcement for Sri Lanka was regarding the exclusion of veteran pacer, Jhulan Goswami, Shikha Pandey, and Sneh Rana. Kaur saw the upcoming series as a good opportunity for those that are playing to make a name and take charge.
“I think this is the time where they take the responsibility,” she said.”This will be the ideal platform to perform, where they can take charge. For me, it’s a great opportunity where you can build a good team because Sri Lanka is not going to be an easy tour for us.”
India Women’s head coach Ramesh Powar further added to this by saying that in a transition period, young players needed to be given chances to cement their places.
Powar also gave an update on Sneh Rana who was a big name missing from both the T20 and ODI squad for the Sri Lanka tour.
“Rana has been rested for this series,” he said. “She is in NCA, she is working on her fitness. Moving forward we have around 23-25 T20 games and some ODI series. We want our players to be fresh for those series and we are going to manage the workload of our bowling unit as well as the batting unit.”
The 44-year old also sounded confident about the current set of pacers available in the lineup and mentioned that it would take time for them to produce results.
On the availability of Jhulan Goswami and Shikha Pandey, the India coach said, “They have done a fantastic job over the years, BCCI and the selectors can update on their fitness and everything.”
The road ahead for Kiran Navgire
27-year old Kiran Navgire was a big name that emerged out of India’s recent domestic T20 season. She was the leading run scorer in the Domestic T20 Trophy (525 in eight innings at a SR of 175.74) and was clear of the second best in the list, Yastika Bhatia by 200 runs.
Coach Powar replied affirmative when asked if the Nagaland batter had been part of the discussion among the India think tank and the selectors with lots of T20 cricket to come, but that she may have to wait for her first taste of international cricket.
“We’ve discussed her, she is a good talent,” Powar said.”I think we can’t hurry her up. There is a lot of cricket going forward. We will try and build her through camps, and we will take her under the NCA’s wing or senior player’s wing and we will try and prepare her properly. And at the right time, as selectors permit, we will give her chances.”