After a gap of almost 365 days, the return of India to international cricket will commence with the series against South Africa in Lucknow. Several series were proposed and cancelled after their most successful campaign in the 2020 World T-20. Though the management stated the pandemic situation is the main reason for not conducting any series, many accused the board of their mere tokenism towards the women cricketers.

India has included a few young faces in both of their ODI and T-20 side, in order to prepare for the 50 over world cup, which was merely a year away. Exclusion of the names like Veda Krishnamurthy, Shikha Pandey and Ekta Bisht has raised the eyebrows of the fans and experts.

However, clearing the air, Harmanpreet Kaur stated that the young faces have been given a go so that the management can find out the right combination for the side. Yastika Bhatia, Swetha Verma, Challuru Prathyusha, Monica Patel have been included in the ODI side while, veteran wicket-keeper Sushma Verma and Mansi Joshi too have been recalled.

India who looks settled in their ODI batting line up will look players for one or two positions before going to the World Cup, next year. Mithali Raj, Jemimah Rodrigues, Harmanpreet Kaur and Deepti Sharma makes a good middle-order bat, at least in the one day format. Jemimah has batted as the opener in her ODI career, except in one innings.

But if the side decides to send Priya Punia or Punam Raut with Smriti Mandhana, then Jemimah need to bat at number three. Sushma Verma who was in good touch will look to do good with the bat, to find herself back in the national colour.

Daina Edulji however thinks, Shafali Verma, who has been the talk of the town, upon her arrival in international cricket, should have been included in the ODI side as well. “India would not have made the final if it wasn’t for Shafali. It made perfect sense to include her in the ODI team also. She is the best you have got alongside Smriti, so why not give her a chance?” she said.

She continued: “Like T20s, in ODI cricket you need someone at the top to give you a flying start and not many do it better than Shafali. She is a rare talent and should be given ample chances in ODIs also. She will only get better as she plays more international cricket. We must nurture a talent like her in the best way possible.”

While Sikhan Pandey will be the number one choice to partner with Jhulan in the World Cup, once she returns, India will need another fast bowler. So this series gives Monica Patel, Arundhati Reddy or Mansi Joshi another opportunity to prove their worth.

Indian ODI skipper, Mithali Raj, in a virtual press conference pointed out what the side expecting from this series. “This series is very important, we will see the composition of the team. Everybody is coming after a long gap, this series is very important as we have young players and it is the right platform to give them opportunities. It is also about ensuring that the core players get enough game time to develop that rhythm and take it from there,” she added.

On the other hand, South Africa had played a series against Pakistan in their own backyard before coming to India. In their successful series against Pakistan, South African opener Laura Wolvaardt was in good touch, but the South African middle order was shaky. South Africa will once again miss the service of Dane Van Neikerk and Chloe Tryon, two seasoned campaigners. So this series provides a good opportunity to the youngsters of both the side to perform well and place their candidature for the World Cup team.

South African pace attack consists of Ayabonga Khaka, Shabnim Ismail, Marizanne Kapp considered in one of the deadliest, and Indian top-order needs to be careful about them.

South African coach Hilton Moreeng, said that they have learnt a lot from that experience as well. “We know Indian conditions are not easy for any touring team, so we’re expecting them to be tough,” explained the head coach. β€œMost of us have been exposed to these conditions as well, having come here before. The last visit was not a joyful one because of the way the results went, even though we worked and tried very hard. But we learnt a lot from that and will see that in the results I’m sure with a lot of those players in this squad as well.”

South Africa has lost the last two bi-lateral series against India and will look for redemption in this series.

Squads:

India: Mithali Raj (Captain), Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Punam Raut, Priya Punia, Yastika Bhatia, Harmanpreet Kaur (vice-captain), Dayalan Hemalatha, Deepti Sharma, Sushma Verma (wicket-keeper), Swetha Verma (wicket-keeper), Radha Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Jhulan Goswami, Mansi Joshi, Poonam Yadav, Challuru Prathyusha, Monica Patel

South Africa: Sune Luus (Captain), Ayabonga Khaka, Shabnim Ismail, Laura Wolvaardt, Trisha Chetty, Sinalo Jafta, Tazmin Brits, Marizanne Kapp, Nondumiso Shangase, Lizelle Lee, Anneke Bosch, Faye Tunnicliffe, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Mignon du Preez, Nadine de Klerk, Lara Goodall, Tumi Sekhukhune

India vs SA Series Fixture:

7 March – 1st ODI

9 March – 2nd ODI

12 March – 3rd ODI

14 March – 4th ODI

17 March – 5th ODI

20 March – 1st T20I

21 March – 2nd T20I

23 March – 3rd T20I

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