India domestic: Rana, Taniya, Pandey and Vastrakar to lead Challenger Trophy teams in absence of WBBL stars

Sneh Rana, Taniya Bhatia, Pooja Vastrakar and Shikha Pandey will lead the four Challenger Trophy teams. © Getty Images

Sneh Rana, Taniya Bhatia, Shikha Pandey and Pooja Vastrakar will lead the four teams, India A, B, C and D, respectively, in the Senior Women’s One-Day Challenger Trophy beginning in Vijayawada on December 4. The teams were announced by the women’s selection committee on Saturday (November 27) with players selected based on their performances through the Senior Women’s One-Day Tournament.

Seven of the eight players involved in the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia have been rested from the tournament alongside the senior duo of Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, who is recovering from a finger injury. Only left-arm spinner Radha Yadav, who has not cemented a spot in India’s ODI side, will feature in the competition, having returned from Australia earlier this week.

Senior India batter Punam Raut, left-arm spinner Ekta Bisht and pacer Arundhati Reddy, who were all part of India’s touring party to Australia, have missed the cut. 

Raut, who was part of the victorious Railways squad, only managed 125 runs in five matches this season. Although she averaged a healthy 41.67, her strike rate of 64.76 came under the scanner again. Bisht, on the other hand, picked up five wickets in as many matches, including a best of 4 for 10. While she wasn’t able to rip through line-ups in what were batting-friendly conditions, the 35-year-old kept the runs to a minimum — her tournament economy rate of 1.70 was the second best in the season.

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Reddy, also originally part of the Railways squad, missed the one-day tournament with a niggle. She spent that period recuperating at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru and was recently cleared to play. Having not featured in the XI through that tour of Australia, the seamer will be gutted to have missed the bus.

Rana, who has enjoyed her return to international cricket with exceptional performances through the series against England and Australia, has been given charge of India A, where she will link up with fellow internationals Yastika Bhatia, Renuka Singh Thakur and Simran Dil Bahadur.

The squad includes a group of strong top-order batters including, Karnataka opener Vrinda Dinesh (348 runs), Vidarbha’s Disha Kasat (292 runs), Andhra allrounder CH Jhansi Lakshmi (204  runs) and Maharashtra’s wicketkeeper-batter Shivali Shinde (253 runs), who will double up as vice-captain.

While Thakur and Rana will be India A’s main weapons with the ball, they will be well supported by the finger-spin quartet of Mehak Kesar (13 wickets), Sushree Dibyadarshini (6 wickets), Sonal Kalal (8 wickets) and B Anusha (8 wickets), with Maya Sonawane, who was part of India’s pre-Australia tour training camp, taking up leg-spin duties.

Taniya Bhatia’s India B has a very young look to it, with two top performers from the Under-19 One-Day Challengers, G Trisha and Soumya Tiwari making their way into to side.

Former Haryana allrounder and current Uttarakhand captain Anju Tomar has been appointed as Taniya’s deputy. The pair will spearhead a batting unit that also includes Baroda’s Palak Patel (327 runs), Karnataka opener Shubha Satish (263 runs), Mumbai’s Riya Chaudhari (255 runs) and Humaira Kazi (239 runs), who scored an 82-ball 102 against Chandigarh. Harleen Deol, who didn’t have the best tournament with the bat, scoring only 125 runs for Himachal Pradesh, is also part of the India B squad.

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Railways’ pace spearhead, Meghna Singh (9 wickets), will lead India B’s bowling attack alongside Mumbai’s Saima Thakor  and Jammu & Kashmir’s left-arm seamer Sarla Devi (12 wickets). Uttar Pradesh left-arm spinner Rashi Kanojiya, who topped the wicket charts with 15 scalps, and Karnataka off-spinner, Chandu V, who finished the tournament as her team’s best bowler with 14 wickets, will headline the spin contingent.

India C could be renamed the team of inswingers with skipper Shikha Pandey (7 wickets), Chandigarh’s Kashvee Gautam and Priyanka Garkhede (7 wickets) of Maharashtra, in the mix. The spin group also looks quite strong with Radha Yadav coming in fresh off a WBBL stint with Sydney Sixers, the duo of Tarannum Pathan (8 wickets) from Baroda and Madhya Pradesh’s latest sensation Anushka Sharma taking up off-spin duties and Karnataka’s C Prathyusha (10 wickets) adding variety with her leg-spin.

The batting group has a solid look to it with Bengal’s young breakout star Dhara Gujjar getting her maiden Challenger call-up after a superb season that saw her pile up 355 runs. Uttar Pradesh skipper Muskan Malik has been named vice-captain and will also likely be a central figure in the batting unit having finished the tournament second on the run charts with a tally of 364. Priya Punia (232 runs), who played a key role in Delhi’s run to the quarter-final, also adds some stability to the line-up.

The strongest looking squad on paper, though, is the Pooja Vastrakar-led India D. A line-up full of young attacking batters, they will go into the tournament as the team to beat.

Meghana Sabbineni, the top run-getter in the one-day tournament with 388 runs, will have the company of Railways teammate Indrani Roy, who will be keen to show the powers that be how destructive she can be at the top of the order after being recently dropped from the Indian squad. Karnataka’s No.3 Divya G (304 runs), Chandigarh skipper Amanjot Kaur (167 runs), Punjab allrounder Kanika Ahuja (265 runs)and Goa’s Sanjula Naik will also play important roles in the batting department.

The bowling attack, led by Vastrakar, also has the experience of Rajeshwari Gayakwad, the pace of Monica Patel (9 wickets) and Jharkhand’s Ashwani Kumari, and the guile of Kerala’s off-spinner Keerthy James (11 wickets) and Bengal left-arm spinner Saika Ishaque (6 wickets).

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All the players are expected to arrive in Vijayawada on Monday (November 29) and will undergo two days of mandatory quarantine. They will then be allowed to practice for two days – Thursday and Friday (December 2 and 3) – before the tournament kicks off next Saturday.

With no international matches on India’s radar until the tour of New Zealand early next year, this will be the final chance for players to impress the selectors ahead of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup in March-April next year.

Squads:

India A: Sneh Rana (c), Shivali Shinde (vc, wk) Lakshmi Yadav (wk), Vrinda Dinesh, C Jhansi Lakshmi, Yastika Bhatia, Sushree Dibyadarshini, Mehak Kesar, B Anusha, Sonal Kalal, Ganga W, Disha Kasat, Renuka Singh, Simran Dil Bahadur, Maya Sonawane

India B: Taniya Bhatia (c, wk), Anju Tomar (vc), Riya Chaudhary (wk), Palak Patel, Shubha Satish, Harleen Deol, Humaira Kazi, Chandu V Ram, Rashi Kanojiya, G Trisha, Soumya Tiwari, Meghna Singh, Sarala Devi, Saima Thakur, K Ramyashri

India C: Shikha Pandey (c), Muskan Malik (vc), Sweta Verma (wk), Shipra Giri (wk), Tarannum Pathan, Arti Devi, Radha Yadav, C Pratyusha, Anushka Sharma, Kashvee Gautam, Priyanka Garkhede, Rizu Saha, Dhara Gujjar, Priya Punia, Aishwarya

India D: Pooja Vastrakar (c), Amanjot Kaur (vc), Indrani Roy (wk), K Pratyoosha (wk), S Meghana, Divya G, Ayushi Soni, Kanika Ahuja, Keerthi James, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Sanjula Naik, Monica Patel, Ashwini Kumari, Pooja Raj, Saika Ishaque

Fixtures:

4 December: India A v India B; India C v India D

5 December: India A v India C; India B v India D

7 December: India A v India D; India B v India C

9 December: FINAL

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