India look to brush aside disappointment of ODI World Cup in Commonwealth Games

India celebrate a wicket © Sri Lanka Cricket

After a heartbreaking exit from the World Cup, India have dusted off and are ready to make their mark in a multi-team event again. They will have to face T20I World Cup champion Australia, arch rivals Pakistan and regional powerhouse Barbados in their group for a podium finish. 

How they made it

International Cricket Council (ICC) announced the qualification process in November 2020. India qualified for the Commonwealth Games as one of the five top-ranked sides in T20Is apart from hosts England on April 1, 2021, along with Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Pakistan. 

What have they done in the past?

Cricket will be a part of the Commonwealth Games for the first time, but the Indian team has plenty of experience of multi-team events. The team, under the leadership of Harmanpreet Kaur, made it to the final of the T20 World Cup in Australia. They now have a good mix of youth and experience for this tournament.

How has their recent form been?

For the longest time, the focus of most of the teams has been on ODI cricket as they were preparing for the World Cup in New Zealand. India played a one-off T20I against New Zealand before the World Cup. Despite Pooja Vastrakar’s valiant bowling efforts, India could not get over the line in that match. 

After the World Cup, India played a three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka in Dambulla. India won the series 2-1 against the hosts as different players stood up throughout the series. Players like Jemimah Rodrigues and Radha Yadav got the opportunity to play after missing out on the World Cup squad and made their presence count.

What they said?

“Whenever we have played against them (Australia), they have always given us a tough fight. We are looking very positive this time around. We are aware that every game is crucial for us. We will try to give our 100% in every game. Having more bowling options always helps me as a captain. That’s the reason why we tried a few options in the Sri Lanka series. When you have many bowling options, that takes the pressure off the main bowlers as well.”

Harmanpreet Kaur on challenges in the Commonwealth Games and having more bowling options

Also Read: Pooja Vastrakar: Harman’s henchwoman down the order

Squad:

Harmanpreet Kaur (C), Smriti Mandhana (VC), Shafali Verma, S. Meghana, Taniya Bhatia (Wk), Yastika Bhatia (Wk), Deepti Sharma, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Pooja Vastrakar, Meghna Singh, Renuka Thakur, Jemimah Rodrigues, Radha Yadav, Harleen Deol, Sneh Rana

Likely playing XI

Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, S. Meghana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Yastika Bhatia (Wk), Deepti Sharma, Sneh Rana, Pooja Vastrakar, Meghna Singh, Renuka Thakur

Key players

Jemimah Rodrigues: 

The 21-year-old has been in good form with the bat recently. Rodrigues made the most of her opportunities in the series against Sri Lanka. Unlike most of the young players from the side, she has the experience of playing in English conditions. Rodrigues was part of the Northern Superchargers during the inaugural season of The Hundred. Her familiarity with these conditions will help India.

Harmanpreet Kaur:

India’s captain has taken over the responsibility of captaincy in all formats after the retirement of Mithali Raj. She looked at her best during the series against Sri Lanka. The 33-year-old allrounder has said that she has been enjoying her role as the captain, and there is clarity of thoughts about her role in the team. She would like to lead her team in the Commonwealth Games with the same clarity. 

Also Read: Harmanpreet Kaur walks the talk in India’s bright new era

X factor:

Pooja Vastrakar

The 22-year-old has shown multiple times that she is one of the best all-rounders in India. She has batted down the order for India, and captain Kaur has indicated that it will continue to happen, but she has rescued India from tricky situations on multiple occasions. India has a relatively young pace bowling unit, and she has also taken responsibility for that group in the previous series as well. 

Shafali Verma

Since her debut in 2018, Verma has been known for her fearless batting in the top order. The 18-year-old has made the opening spot in this format her own alongside vice-captain Smriti Mandhana. Along with her batting, she showed that she is handy with the ball in hand too against Sri Lanka. Captain Kaur has indicated that India are looking for players to take up multiple roles in the playing XI and Verma can have an impact with her off spin.

Prediction:

Podium finish.

India are currently ranked fourth in the ICC T20I rankings behind Australia, England, and New Zealand. They will have to face tough opposition in the form of Australia and Barbados to make it to the medal matches in the event. Given the mix of youth and experience at their disposal, India would make it to the next round and they would like to at least clinch the bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games.