R Kalpana returns to India squad for England series after three years

Amy Jones (England)and Smriti Mandhana (India). ©ICC

R Kalpana, who played the last of her seven One-Day Internationals in February 2016, has been recalled into the squad as the second wicketkeeper for the three-match series against England in Mumbai from February 22. Before that she will represent Board President’s XI under the captaincy of Smriti Mandhana in the warm-up match on February 18.

She replaced D Hemalatha in the squad. Hemalatha played all the three ODIs in New Zealand, but did not pick up a wicket and scored only 13 in her only knock.

Kalpana has had a decent run for Railways in the domestic circuit this season, and was exceptional behind the stumps in India Red’s Challenger Trophy win. She also played a key role in Railways winning the Under-23 inter-state Twenty20 Championship recently.

When Kalpana last played for India, she was with Andhra Pradesh but has since then shifted base to Railways and also played for India A against the visiting England side last year.

While she has been in good form, the selectors might have been forced to name a second wicketkeeper in the squad because of Taniya Bhatia’s poor form during the ongoing tour of New Zealand. Bhatia was particularly sloppy in the second T20I, as she missed a few chances which meant that New Zealand reached their target of 136 off the last ball of the match to seal the series.

Rest of the squad that won the ODI series against New Zealand 2-1 remains the same. India are currently third on the ICC Women’s Championship table with 12 points in as many games. With the team unlikely to play the three ODIs against Pakistan because of political issues, the upcoming series against England is crucial. They would be aiming to win all the matches to strengthen their prospects of finishing among the top four teams outside of New Zealand, who are guaranteed an automatic spot as the hosts of the 2021 World Cup.

Mithali Raj, India’s ODI captain who recently became the first cricketer to play 200 ODIs, said that she would like the team to avoid playing the Qualifiers.

Veda Krishnamurthy, who was dropped for the tour of New Zealand, has been named in the Board President’s XI. She was a part of the Shikha Pandey-led India Red side that won the Challenger Trophy.

Devika Vaidya, who finished as the highest run-getter in the Under-23 T20s, also has been rewarded with a place for the practice match. She has had a difficult season because of injury and lack of form, which has made her comeback to international cricket difficult.

Komal Zanzad, the left-arm seamer from Madhya Pradesh, Bharati Fulmali, the middle-order batter, Tanuja Kanwar, Reemalaksmi Ekka, Manali Dakshini and Harleen Deol are some of the other players to have been rewarded for a good domestic season.

Sudha Shah, Lopamudra Bhattacharjee and Anjali Pendharkar, the three selectors, met at a hotel in Mumbai at 2pm, but the meeting started at 4pm due to the delayed arrival of Amitabh Chaudhary, BCCI’s ad-hoc secretary. Therefore, the selectors could only name the ODI squad because they had flights to catch. They will select the T20I squad after the first ODI, CricketNext reported. Hemlata Kala, the chief selector, and Shashi Gupta are now in New Zealand.

There have been speculations that Mithali Raj could call it a day in T20Is, but one of the selectors said that it is media speculation. “The ODI team has been doing well under Mithali. There wasn’t much need to tinker with the squad. Regarding the T20 future of Mithali, there is just speculation in the media. She hasn’t communicated anything to us about her plans to quit the T20 format,” a selector was quoted as saying to CricketNext.

Squad for ODI series: Mithali Raj (capt), Jhulan Goswami, Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Harmanpreet Kaur, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wk), R Kalpana (wk), Mona Meshram, Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Shikha Pandey, Mansi Joshi, Punam Raut.

Board President’s XI: Smriti Mandhana (capt), Veda Krishnamurthy, Devika Vaidya, S Meghana, Bharati Fulmali, Komal Zanzad, R Kalpana (wk), Priya Punia, Harleen Deol, Reemalaxmi Ekka, Manali Dakshini, Minnu Mani, Tanuja Kanwar.