Confident India aim to start well against favourites England
Monica Patel (third from right) with the Indian team. © BCCI
July 23, 2017, was the last time India walked onto the field for an ODI in England. None of the Indian players or the fans could forget that game; the heartbreaking nine-run defeat in the World Cup final against England. Almost three years later, the two teams will be coming up against each other in Bristol on Sunday (June 27).
A lot has changed since the Women's World Cup 2017 for women's cricket, both in India and across the globe. Whether it is the approach of batters in the power play or the role of the lower middle-order, the pace at which the game moves has gone forward. For India, quite a few young talents have broken into the system and are making their mark in international cricket.
While it all seems valid, India is likely to go into the first ODI against England, with as many as eight players who played in the World Cup. The three changes are likely to be those who impressed everyone with their stellar performances in the fighting draw against England a week ago.
After missing out on the ODI team for the South Africa series earlier in March, Shafali Verma should walk into the team at the top of the order. In the Test match against England, Verma showed why she should be the opener in all formats, especially with the way she adjusted to the conditions and the England seamers. With Smriti Mandhana, she will be crucial for the team's starts in the first ten overs against the English pace attack.
Verma's inclusion means that the place of Jemimah Rodrigues is in contention along with the experienced Punam Raut at number three. Raut rides high on confidence with her performances in the ODI series against South Africa, whereas Rodrigues was dropped from the eleven late into that series. A couple more bad performances might make it harder for the talented 20-year-old to retain her place. That is why Raut is likely to start in the first ODI at number three with Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Deepti Sharma to follow.
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Taniya Bhatia and Sneh Rana are likely to be back in the eleven on Sunday. The duo's match-saving partnership in the second innings has brought a lot of limelight on them. Bhatia, whose ability to contribute with the bat was under the scanner, showed everyone why she's the best candidate for the role. With Rana coming into the team as the leading wicket-taker in the Senior One-day Tournament this year, the team management would want to start with someone who has been in good form. India are likely to stick to their strength and play four spinners - Sharma, Rana, Poonam Yadav and either Radha Yadav or Ekta Bisht, with Shikha Pandey and Jhulan Goswami making up the pace attack.
If India wanted to make any changes in the eleven during the series, they have a strong pool of players on the bench to select from. Indrani Roy, Pooja Vastrakar, Arundhati Reddy and Rodrigues would be waiting for an opportunity to come their way.
For England, this series will be crucial in figuring out their best playing eleven in the format going into their World Cup defence in February 2022. While Danielle Wyatt's exclusion from the ODI squad came as a surprise, the aggressive top-order had series of low scores in her recent international appearances.
In her absence, their opener from the 2017 World Cup, Lauren Winfield-Hill, is likely to walk out to the middle alongside Tammy Beaumont. Winfield-Hill was impressive in the Test match. As their skipper Heather Knight said, she had been in good touch over the last month and a half, including the intra-squad games.
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With Knight, Natalie Sciver and Amy Jones filling up the middle-order, it could be a toss up between Fran Wilson and Sophia Dunkley, who is yet to make her ODI debut, for the no.6 spot. Dunkley, who became the first black woman to play a Test for England, has made it difficult for the team management to leave her out with her impressive performance on her debut.
Sarah Glenn, Sophie Ecclestone, Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole form the core of the bowling attack, with one of Natasha Farrant, Kate Cross or Freya Davies finishing up the eleven. Mady Villiers and Emily Arlott were released from the squad to play the Charlotte Edwards Cup.
With the controversy around not having a fresh pitch for the Test match, the conditions on Sunday might be favourable for England, though rain could play spoilsport. It is likely to be a contest between the Indian batting and England bowling. Although England start favourites, if the Indian batters put up their hand and perform, the tourists have a good chance to do well in this series.
Going by the recent record of England in ODIs, India would want to start the series well. If England win the first ODI, it will be harder for India to make a comeback. India managed to get two points out of the Test, but the way they start the ODI series on Sunday will set the tone for the rest of the tour.
England: Heather Knight (c), Emily Arlott , Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Freya Davies, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone , Natasha Farrant, Sarah Glenn, Amy Jones, Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Mady Villiers, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield-Hill
India: Mithali Raj (c), Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur (vc), Punam Raut, Priya Punia, Deepti Sharma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma, Sneh Rana, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Indrani Roy (wk), Jhulan Goswami, Shikha Pandey, Pooja Vastrakar, Arundhati Reddy, Poonam Yadav, Ekta Bisht, Radha Yadav