15-year-old Shafali Verma in action. © BCCI

Shafali Verma, the 15-year-old wicket-keeper batter, has earned her maiden call-up to India’s T20I squad for the first three matches of the five-match series against South Africa, while Pooja Vastrakar, the right-arm seamer, also returns after a long injury lay off. The squad was announced on Thursday (September 5).

Shafali, who turned out for Velocity in the recent Women’s T20 Challenge in Jaipur, showed great temperament and a fearless approach through the course of the tournament. She crunched a 31-ball 34, including five fours and a six, in her very first match against Trailblazers.

Her runs in the T20 league aside, what was most impressive about the teenager were her domestic returns for the 2018-19 season. Shafali clobbered 46 sixes across formats and age groups through the season, while collecting close to 2,000 runs at a strike rate of 171.70 for Haryana.

© Women’s CricZone

Vastrakar’s return, following an injury that she suffered ahead of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in the Caribbean last year, is wonderful news for Indian cricket. Since making her debut in January 2018, the allrounder had a start-stop career owing to a string of injuries. She has not played any competitive cricket since the practice matches ahead of the mega event in November last year. 

However, following a fitness test at the National Cricket Academy recently, Vastrakar has been included in the Board President’s XI squad to play the two warm-up matches against South Africa in Surat, and will now be the fourth pacer in the T20I squad, joining Shikha Pandey, Mansi Joshi and Arundhati Reddy.

Veda Krishnamurthy and Harleen Deol have retained their places from the home series against England earlier this year, while Bharti Fulmali has been dropped and Komal Zanzad, the left-arm seamer, misses out due to injuty. Harmanpreet Kaur returns to the helm.

Otherwise, the squad largely remains unchanged with Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues and Deepti Sharma returning fresh off their stints in the Women’s Cricket Super League.

Taniya Bhatia is the only wicket-keeper in both squads. R Kalpana, who was part of the team for the home series in England has been left out.

This will be the first series India play after the retirement of Mithali Raj from T20Is, and will serve as build up to the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 in Australia.

The ODI format sees the return of India’s two stalwarts, Mithali and Jhulan Goswami, while Priya Punia, the right-hand batter from Delhi, has also been included in the side. Punam Raut, Ekta Bisht, and Dayalan Hemalatha have also made the squad, while Krishnamurthy and Deol have missed out.

India begin their five-match T20I series in Surat on September 25, before the three-match ODI series kicks off in Baroda on October 9.


Squad for first 3 T20Is: Harmanpreet Kaur (captain), Smriti Mandhana (vice-captain), Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wicket-keeper), Poonam Yadav, Shikha Pandey, Arundhati Reddy, Pooja Vastrakar, Radha Yadav, Veda Krishnamurthy, Harleen Deol, Anuja Patil, Shafali Verma, Mansi Joshi

ODI squad: Mithali Raj (Captain), Jemimah Rodrigues, Harmanpreet Kaur (vice-captain), Punam Raut, Smriti Mandhana, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wicket-keeper), Jhulan Goswami, Shikha Pandey, Mansi Joshi, Ekta Bisht, Poonam Yadav, D Hemalatha, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Priya Punia

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