India regain Kaur strength
CHENNAI: If two players in the Indian women’s dressing room had wished for the rain at Lalbhai Contractor Stadium on Thursday to stop, it must have been Harmanpreet Kaur and Shafali Verma. This is the comeback series for the former. For the latter, its a debut event that hasn’t started on a good note.
Tuesday marked the return of the India T20I skipper after nearly six months; she’d missed the series against England in March due to an ankle injury. Harmanpreet’s 43 off 34 was not only important in that win — it gave the bowlers something to defend in a low-scoring shootout — but it was also crucial for her getting back into her groove.
She came in when India had lost both openers inside six overs. On a slow, low pitch, Harmanpreet kept the scorecard ticking. Though her dismissal triggered a slide, two clean sixes and three boundaries were among signs that good things are yet to come from the right-hander’s blade.
That India are heavily dependent on Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah and Harmanpreet is no secret. The skipper can single-handedly win matches. The 30-year-old was the team’s leading run-scorer in T20Is last year (663 in 25 matches at an average of 41.43). Of the 3,138 runs India scored in 25 games, 622 have come from Smriti’s bat, 575 from Mithali Raj and 461 from Jemimah. With the ODI skipper no more in the picture, you get how the big picture is.
This year, though, hasn’t seen the Harmanpreet of 2018. After her explosive unbeaten 103 against New Zealand in the opening game of the World T20 last year, Harmanpreet notched up a mere 104 — with only one 30+ score — in her seven innings (before the series against South Africa). Goes without saying that she seems to have dusted off her cobwebs with that 43 in the first T20I.
With talks of preparations for next year’s World T20 increasing day by day, Harmanpreet revealed that she’d focussed on improving her game against the medium pacers during her time on the sidelines.
“Previously, I was able to dominate spinners. (On Tuesday), thoda tricky wicket tha (the wicket was a bit tricky). I was trying to hit the ball, but it was not coming on nicely. But I’ve worked on that (scoring runs when it’s difficult),” Harmanpreet had said after the first T20I.
“It’s (comeback) very important for me. I didn’t play international cricket for the last three months but I was in touch. I was playing leagues (Kia Super League and women’s mini IPL).”
With Harmanpreet herself saying that there are “a lot of areas to improve” in batting — the team’s average in T20Is this year is 129.5 — you don’t need a rocket scientist to figure out that she’ll need to play many more knocks like the one on Tuesday, in the days to come.
Second T20I washed out
The second women’s T20I between India and South Africa was washed out without a ball being bowled. Persistent rain meant even the toss could not take place. The game was supposed to start at 7pm. After an inspection at 8pm, the umpires decided to call off the game.