India in Sri Lanka: Jemimah, Meghana among players to watch out for in T20Is
After the disappointment at the World Cup 2022, India will be back in action when they take on Sri Lanka in a six-match limited-overs series starting on Thursday (June 23). The tour is set to start with the T20Is and India have a fairly settled squad in the format, while the new age ODI side can wait. The hosts, on the other hand, have been going through some tough times in international cricket post the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once again, India start the series as favourites, but Sri Lanka also have some promising names in their line up and it will be interesting to see if they can complement their maverick skipper Chamari Athapaththu.
Women’s CricZone takes a look at six players – three each from both the sides – to watch out for during the three-match T20I series.
Jemimah Rodrigues has been in the news whenever India have taken the field with her selection/ non-selection in recent times. Even in Sri Lanka, she is not a part of the ODI squad. But the talented right-hander has a stellar record in the shortest format.
Rodrigues became the youngest to score 1000 runs in T20Is when she scored a magnificent 49 not out off 36 balls against Australia in October last year. The fact that it was her comeback match in the format after sitting out during the England matches made it even more special.
At 21, she is already one of the four batters with more than 1000 T20I runs for India in the format, alongside skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, and Mithali Raj. India will be hoping for her to continue the good form she showed against Sri Lanka in the past. Rodrigues has scored 206 runs from five innings against the island nation at an average of 68.66, while striking at 149.27. Her average and strike rate are the best among all the India batters who have played against Sri Lanka.
S Meghana is one of the most prolific players in domestic cricket in India. Scoring mountains of runs year after year helped her get back into the international set-up after a gap of almost six years. And she immediately made an impact in the one-off T20I against the hosts New Zealand. Batting at number four, she made 37 off 30 balls even as India went down in the match.
After sitting on the sidelines during the World Cup 2022 as a travelling reserve, Meghana came back to India and continued her good run by scoring 263 runs from eight matches in the Senior T20 Trophy 2022, including a match-winning knock in the final.
The 26-year-old then impressed everyone with a 73 off 47 balls and shared a 113-run with Rodrigues for Trailblazers against Velocity in the Women’s T20 Challenge 2022. The fact that she can open the innings as well as bat in the middle order helps India with the flexibility that they are looking for. She can start attacking from the go and has all the big shots that are necessary for the format.
Pooja Vastrakar is one of the most improved cricketers going around and with her many fitness issues now behind her, the allrounder has started delivering on the promise she showed as a 17-year-old. Vastrakar has always been good with the bat as she possesses the ability to hit big and will always be an asset down the order in a finishing role.
Now 22, Vastrakar has played 24 T20Is already and is starting to understand the vagaries of the format. She has struck at a rate of 128.68 from the 15 innings she has played so far in T20Is and will provide much-needed impetus at the back end of India’s T20 innings.
But it’s her bowling that has come a long way in recent times, and Vastrakar showed that she can handle the pressure of bowling in all three formats starting with the England tour last year. In the recently concluded Women’s T20 Challenge, Vastrakar was instrumental in helping Supernovas win their third title of the tournament. Now as the leader of the pace attack, in the absence of experienced heads like Shikha Pandey, she will have to step up and guide her inexperienced compatriots.
Harshitha Madavi is elegant like most left-handers and is rated highly in the cricketing circles even though her numbers don’t make for good reading in international cricket as of now. But the 23-year-old has time on her hands and she has shown glimpses of what she can do during her 35 international matches across the two limited over formats.
During the Pakistan tour, the southpaw made 41 and 75 (her career-best score) in the two ODIs she played even as most other batters struggled. If Madavi can take the confidence she received from the series into the T20 format, the Sri Lankan middle-order will have a semblance of normalcy.
Like Madavi, Kavisha Dilhari is full of promise and the 21-year-old had a decent tour of Pakistan with some impressive outings. The off-spinning allrounder scored 49*, 32, and 28 during the three ODIs showing what she can do with the bat, while she tried to restrict Pakistan’s batters in the T20Is despite Sri Lanka not putting up enough runs on the board.
Dilhari made her debut against India when they visited the island nation the last time in 2018 and since then has played 16 matches in the format, including the T20 World Cup in Australia in 2020. With Shashikala Siriwardene retiring after the world event, it’s time for Dilhari to make the spin-bowling allrounder spot her own and she has the game for it.
Vishmi Gunaratne is the wild card in the pack and the 16-year-old has been seen as a long-term prospect by Sri Lanka. The young prodigy made headlines when she scored 417 not out off 128 balls in the interschool cricket competition this year.
Gunaratne has been on the Sri Lanka radar for some time now and she made her debut during the Commonwealth Games Qualifier 2022 in Malaysia in January as Sri Lanka clinched the trophy to qualify for the Games in Birmingham. Although she didn’t leave any mark in the four games, Sri Lanka have kept their faith in the batter.
The right-hand batter missed the Pakistan tour for her school exams and will be looking to make amends and leave a good impression on the visitors when Sri Lanka take on India starting tomorrow.