Confident India aim to breach England fortress in Northampton

England captain Heather Knight (2nd from left) and India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur at the toss. © Getty Images

‘New year, new me!’

It is a phase generally in vogue during the turn of the year as resolutions for the new year. Or around birthdays, which are another occasions for people to make resolutions. For Team India, too, it will be an apt mantra.

Ahead of this England tour, India had a change of guard with Ramesh Powar being appointed the Head Coach. India under Powar were known to be fighters, as seen from their T20 World Cup campaign in 2018. The same fight was seen in the way India came back to draw the one-off Bristol Test as well as pull one back in the final ODI.

But Friday (July 9) will bring another newness to this team. The young brigade will be aiming to do what no Indian team has done thus far – win a bilateral T20I series against England. With Mithali Raj, who retired from the format in 2019, and Jhulan Goswami, who also called it quits from T20Is in 2018, no more part of the team, the average age as well as experience of the side comes down.

Richa Ghosh, Harleen Deol and Simran Dil Bahadur, all of whom were part of the large contingent to the United Kingdom, have a chance to get into the thick of things. Deol, who played at number three against South Africa, has a chance to reprise her role given the indifferent form of Jemimah Rodrigues. Ghosh will be in line to don the gloves after Taniya Bhatia did it in the Tests and ODIs.

But if an Indian team is to come good on a consistent basis, its engine room needs to function well. And that is where the form of Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur with the bat and the likes of Shikha Pandey and either or both of Radha Yadav and Poonam Yadav need to come good. Kaur, the T20I captain, did reveal about a new avatar of hers will be on show during the three-game series. She also spoke about a change in approach from the Indian team, which seemed to suggest that Ghosh could take the gloves while Pandey could have at least one more seamer, if not more, for company in the XI.

ALSO READ: Rejuvenated Harmanpreet Kaur confident of getting back amongst runs going into T20I series

Sneh Rana, after her finishing act in the final ODI, should be a shoo in the lower middle-order along with Deepti Sharma, who has been a regular in the XI. That could very well mean that only one of the Yadavs could find a place. Simran Dil Bahadur impressed in the series against South Africa and should do well to keep Pooja Vastrakar as well as Arundhati Reddy on their toes.

While the tourists have quite a few permutations and combinations to do while selecting the team, hosts England find themselves in a comfortable spot and their 14-member squad also says so. Danielle Wyatt, who missed the ODIs, will take back the opening spot and would want to repeat what she did in her first match of the Charlotte Edwards Cup – get among the runs. While her partner Tammy Beaumont has suddenly become dismissable (at least in ODIs), Wyatt would want to post problems for the Indian bowlers, especially with the fielding restrictions at the start.

While numbers three, four and five in captain Heather Knight, Natalie Sciver and Amy Jones select themselves, it could be yet again a toss-up between Sophia Dunkley and Fran Wilson for the finisher’s spot. Dunkley began her Test career with a classy 74 not out and rescued England and took them to a win in the second ODI with an unconquered 73. While she couldn’t make it to the XI last year due to Wilson’s presence, the roles have been reversed this summer so far.

With prime tormentor Kate Cross rested for the T20Is, it is an opportunity for Freya Davies to stake a claim for the third seamer’s spot, with Anya Shrubsole and Katherine Brunt being perennially present in the unit. Natasha Farrant could stand with an outside chance as well.

ALSO READ: Fran Wilson prepares for exciting year ahead

With the Women’s World Cup early next year being the end goal that most teams are looking towards, this T20I series gives chance for both India and England to work out combinations to the Commonwealth Games next year around this time. And with the multi-format series in England’s favour 6-4, the T20I series winner could, indeed, take it all.

England have an enviable all-clear record at the County Ground in Northampton, with six wins in six outings. India begin the series with their backs against the wall already. Who will blink first on Friday?

Squads:

India: Harmanpreet Kaur (c) Smriti Mandhana (vc), Deepti Sharma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma, Richa Ghosh, Harleen Deol, Sneh Rana, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Indrani Roy (wk), Shikha Pandey, Pooja Vastrakar, Arundhati Reddy, Poonam Yadav, Ekta Bisht, Radha Yadav, Simran Dil Bahadur

England: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Freya Davies, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Natasha Farrant, Sarah Glenn, Amy Jones, Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Mady Villiers, Fran Wilson, Danielle Wyatt