Harmanpreet: SL tour a great opportunity to build a good team

Harmanpreet Kaur © Getty Images

Ahead of their departure for their first bilateral series since the ODI World Cup in New Zealand, India’s newly installed ODI captain Harmanpreet Kaur said that the six-match tour is a great opportunity for the younger players to impress and firm up their spots in the team. Coach Ramesh Powar said that the tour will also help the think tank finalise their first-choice team for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in July.

“For me, it’s a great opportunity where you can build a good team. Sri Lanka is not going to be an easy tour for us. So, it’s important [to ensure that] whatever we are planning we go and deliver. That’s what as a unit we are looking forward to,” Harmanpreet said in a virtual press conference on Saturday ahead of the tour, which will see India take on Sri Lanka in three ODIs and three T20Is.

The tour will also be India’s first since the retirement of Mithali Raj, who captained the team for most of the past two decades in ODIs. “Well, as we all know, she (Mithali) has done great for women’s cricket and I don’t think anyone can fill this place. If you talk about Mithali Di, I don’t think there is anyone who can take her place and we will always miss her in our dressing rooms and the things she has done so far,” said Harmanpreet while hailing Raj’s contribution to the team over the years.

While Raj has retired, India did not pick the experienced Jhulan Goswami as well for the tour, meaning that their pace attack comprises Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh Thakur, Pooja Vastrakar and Simran Dil Bahadur. Speaking about the same, Powar said, “As far as pace bowling is concerned, you’ve seen from the Australia tour, we’ve introduced Renuka and Meghna, we introduced a few bowlers in the system as well. So, it will take a little time to see the results because they have to address their fitness and match experience. So, whichever bowlers are there – we are carrying four fast bowlers – you will see results from them. Pooja Vastrakar has been an outstanding bowler for the last six months. Moving forward, we will try and fast-track this fast bowling attack’s improvements.”

Powar also clarified that allrounder Sneh Rana had been rested for the series in light of the busy schedule ahead. “Sneh has been rested for this series and she is in the National Cricket Academy (NCA) working on her fitness. Moving forward, in the FTP that we have, there are about 20-25 T20 games and we want our players fresh for all the series.

“We want to manage the workload of the bowling unit as well as the batting unit. We are trying to balance it out. As of now, she is being rested and is working on her fitness,” he said.

With the team at the beginning of a new ODI World Cup cycle, Powar said him and Harmanpreet were currently in the planning stage so that they can ‘build a squad which can compete in every condition and against every opponent’.

“At this moment, we are trying to assess where we stand as a team and where we need to get at to beat all the teams in the ICC tournaments and in every series we play. This Sri Lanka tour will give us the opportunity to try a few players. We are trying to plan our next eight months according to the situations we have to face ahead. It is more of a planning phase right now and we will execute those plans once we go ahead in the series and tournaments. To add to that, we will freeze down a combination of 11 which will take part in Commonwealth so that we are confident walking into the tournament. And the players will be confident that they are going to play in the first game,” he concluded.