India launches T20 World Cup preparations
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South Africans confident of challenging the hosts despite missing three top stars
The men may have moved on from the India blues into white flannels, but India’s women cricketers will commence their final phase of the World T20 preparation on Tuesday in a five-match T20I series against South Africa at the Lalbhai Contractor Stadium here.
Considering the World T20 will start in Australia on February 21, captain Harmanpreet Kaur understands that the five T20Is under lights — India Women’s first floodlit outing in a bilateral series at home — will offer her and coach W.V. Raman an opportunity to test the younger talent.
“As you know the World Cup is coming, that’s why we are playing more T20s ahead of the tournament. We have 10-15 games to experiment and give chances to youngsters and see how they fit into the side,” Kaur said on Monday, before slogging it out in the nets with her teammates.
The fact the team has several young faces — with 15-year-old Shafali Verma stealing the limelight — coincides with the onset of the post-Mithali Raj era in T20Is.
The legendary Mithali recently announced her retirement from the shortest format. It will be interesting to see whether the younger batters can grab the opportunity and senior pros like Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet can shoulder the additional burden.
Raman also conceded that the inclusion of four pacers in the squad was “keeping the World T20 in mind”. It remains to be seen if a youngster like Pooja Vastrakar, who has been recalled, can put in impressive performances.
Just like the host, the visiting outfit has also rested three of its key players — veteran batter Mignon du Preez along with star all-rounders Marizanne Kapp and Chloe Tryon. But captain Sune Luus exuded confidence that her bunch can stretch India over the next two weeks.
While the teams will have one eye on the World T20, the Surat District Cricket Association officials and volunteers will be hoping that the weather remains clear.
After all, they are hoping for a capacity crowd for what would be the maiden international cricket match to be staged in the Diamond City.
The teams (from): South Africa: Sune Luus (Capt.), Anneke Bosch, Tasmin Brits, Nadine de Klerk, Shabnim Ismail, Sinalo Jafta (wk), Ayabonga Khaka, Lara Goodall, Lizelle Lee, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Tumi Sekhukhune, Nondumiso Shangase, Mignon du Preez and Lara Wolvaardt.
India: Harmanpreet Kaur (Capt.), Smriti Mandhana (Vice-Capt.), Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Poonam Yadav, Shikha Pandey, Arundhati Reddy, Pooja Vastrakar, Radha Yadav, Veda Krishnamurthy, Harleen Deol, Anuja Patil, Shafali Verma and Mansi Joshi.