Shikha Pandey, Punam Raut, Mona Meshram to lead in Challenger Trophy

Women's CricZone Staff
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Shikha Pandey, Punam Raut, Mona Meshram to lead in Challenger Trophy

Mona Meshram, Punam Raut and Shikha Pandey. ©ICC

Shikha Pandey, Punam Raut and Mona Meshram will lead India Red, India Blue and India Green respectively in the 50-over Challenger Trophy to be played in Mulapadu from January 3 to 6.

The Hemlata Kala-led selection committee has rested Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami, Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia and Jemimah Rodrigues, while Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur are unavailable because of their Women’s Big Bash League commitments in Australia. With the squad for the tour of New Zealand already announced, the selectors have made their intent clear of building the bench strength through this tournament.

The significance of the competition cannot be undermined. It was in the previous edition in Indore in January this year that Rodrigues made a splash and made her way into the Indian team for the subsequent tour of South Africa.

Pandey’s appointment as captain indicates that the selectors are keen to give her a role that could help her find her confidence back before embarking on the trip to New Zealand. She had been dropped from the World Twenty20 squad but has made a comeback into the format in the absence of an injured Pooja Vastrakar.

The core of Red’s batting will form around Veda Krishnamurthy, who has been dropped for the tour of New Zealand. A minimum of two and a maximum of three matches gives her a chance to find her groove back.

Apart from the three captains and Veda, Radha Yadav, D Hemalatha, Mansi Joshi, Arundhati Reddy, Sushma Verma are the others who have played international cricket within the last one year.

Sneh Rana, the offspinner, and R Kalpana, the wicketkeeper, both of who last played for India in early 2016, return to the fold after a steady outing for Railways. Similarly, Shubhlakshmi Sharma, who last played international cricket in 2015, also finds a place in the India Green squad. She shifted to Bengal this season and has played a supporting role in their qualification for the knockouts of the 50-over tournament.

What is clear from the three squads is that the selectors have not gone just with statistics, but have backed talented youngsters.

Priya Punia, who is in the T20I team for the New Zealand series, Vrushali Bhagat, C Jhansi Lakshmi, Harleen Deol, Reemalaxmi Ekka, Sushree Pradhan and Tanushree Sarkar are some of the prominent youngsters in the mix of things.

This is the second Challenger Trophy of the season after India Blue won the 2o-over format in Alur in August which marked the start of 2018-19 domestic calendar.

India Red: Shikha Pandey (c), N Anusha, Shivi Pandey, Veda Krishnamurthy, Vrushali Bhagat, Jasia Akhter, Jhansi Lakshmi, Komal Zanzad, Shanti Kumari, Radha Yadav, Harleen Deol, R Kalpana (wk), Tarannum Pathan

India Blue: Punam Raut (c), Priya Punia, Tanushree Sarkar, Bharti Fulmali, Aditi Sharma, Tamanna Nigam, Mansi Joshi, Reema Laxmi Ekka, Manali Dakshini, Tanuja Kanwer, G Trisha, Sushma Verma (wk), Minnu Mani

India Green: Mona Meshram (c), D Hemalatha, Shefali Verma, Tejal Hasabnis, Anita Lodhi, Sneh Rana, Arundhati Reddy, Renuka Singh, Shublaxmi, Devyani Prasad, SB Keerthana, Shweta Verma (wk), Sushree Dibyadarshini