As was expected, Smriti Mandhana has been named as the captain for the three Twenty20 Internationals against England to be played in Guwahati after the completion of the ongoing One-Day International series in Mumbai. She replaces Harmanpreet Kaur at the helm. Kaur had injured her ankle after returning from the tour of New Zealand where India lost the T20I series 0-3 and was ruled out of the entire England series. Mandhana will be India women’s youngest T20I captain, and their third youngest in any format (Mithali and Diana Edulji were younger when they first captained in ODIs).
Mandhana has previously led Maharashtra and West Zone, and also India Blue to title in the Challenger Trophy in 2017-18. She was also the skipper of the Board President’s XI for the 50-over warm-up match against England.
The Hemlata Kala-led selection committee have also rewarded Komal Zanzad and Bharti Fulmali – both from Vidarbha – for their consistent show in the domestic circuit. Harleen Deol also finds a place in place of Priya Punia, who did not do much during the three T20Is in New Zealand.
The experienced Veda Krishnamurthy has also been given an opportunity to ressurect her career after being left out of the squad for the entire New Zealand tour and the ODIs against England. Veda is currently leading Railways in the inter-state T20 competition.
Zanzad, the left-arm seamer, has been the talk of the season with her accuracy and early strikes with the new ball. She played a key role in India Red winning the 50-over Challenger Trophy earlier this year, and then made headlines with her three-wicket haul for BP XI against England few days back. She accounted for Tammy Beaumont, Sarah Taylor and Natalie Sciver, as England struggled in their chase of 155 before completing a two-wicket win.
In Kaur’s absence, the batting core revolves around Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues and Mithali Raj with Veda expected to rise to the occasion. Mithali’s inclusion is a sign of team management’s belief in her ability to adapt. She was benched for three successive T20Is including the World T20 semifinal in Antigua which stirred up a major controversy. An opener in the format since 2014, Mithali came in as a replacement for an injured D Hemalatha and batted in the middle-order in the final T20I against New Zealand. She made an immediate impression with her unbeaten 24 off 20 balls from No.5 even though India fell two runs short in their chase of 162.
Taniya Bhatia, Fulmali, Anuja Patil, the allrounder, and Deol are the other primary batting options.
Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav and Ekta Bisht along with Patil are the spinners in the squad, and the pace bowling department is made up of Shikha Pandey and Arundhati Reddy.
Mansi Joshi, who was a part of the T20I series in New Zealand, has been left out as the selectors have gone with a spin-heavy attack.
The first T20I is on March 4 followed by the next two games on March 7 and 9. The last time the two teams met in a T20I was in the World T20 semifinal last year where England prevailed over India.
Squad: Smriti Mandhana (capt), Mithali Raj, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Bharti Fulmali, Anuja Patil, Shikha Pandey, Komal Zanzad, Arundhati Reddy, Poonam Yadav, Ekta Bisht, Radha Yadav, Veda Krishnamurthy, Harleen Deol.