The build-up to the series has been far from ideal but the Indian women’s cricket team will be keen to give a tough time to the all-conquering Australia in the five-match T20 rubber beginning.
With two months go for the T20 World Cup in South Africa, the Harmanpreet Kaur-led side should also exactly know where they stand following the five games. Head coach Ramesh Powar was suddenly sacked three days before the series opener and former India batter Hrishikesh Kanitkar is now in charge of the support staff as the designated batting coach. India managed to win the Asia Cup in October though they were guilty of experimenting a tad too much which cost them a league game against Pakistan.
In the recent past, India have managed to compete against the mighty Australia but failed to get over the line. One such case was their last meeting in the Commonwealth Games final in August when India threw it away after a blinder from Harmanpreet in the run chase.
The batting has a settled look with star batter Smriti Mandhana expected to score the bulk of the runs. Her opening partner Shafali Verma, who will lead in the U-19 World Cup next month, will be put under pressure by the Australian pacers considering her weakness against the short ball. Jemimah Rodrigues has shown good form ever since returning to the national side while skipper Harmanpreet too has regained consistency. Harleen Deol and Yastika Bhatia have made a comeback after their prolific run in the Challenger Trophy.
Leg-spin bowling all-rounder Devika Vaidya has made a return to the T20 side after eight years and her presence lends variety to the spin attack full of left-armers and offies. Renuka Thakur has been the standout pacer for the team over the past six months and she would be hoping for support from uncapped left-arm seamer Anjali Sarvani.
Australia, who will be led by Alyssa Healy in Meg Lanning’s absence, too have fresh faces in the line-up.
Expectations are high from 19-year-old batter Phoebe Litchfield who is expected to fill the retired Rachael Haynes’ shoes. The southpaw had spent a lot of time with Mandhana during the WBBL last year. Ex-Ireland pacer Kim Garth and Heather Graham are also expected to make their Australia debut. Lanning is not part of the touring party as she has taken an indefinite break from the game.
Australia squad: Alyssa Healy (c), Tahlia McGrath (vc), Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Heather Graham, Grace Harris, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Phoebe Litchfield, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland.
India squad: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana (vc), Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Radha Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Renuka Singh Thakur, Meghna Singh, Anjali Sarvani, Devika Vaidya, S Meghana, Richa Ghosh, Harleen Deol. Match starts 7 PM IST.