After having won the T20I series by 3-1 against South Africa, the focus has shifted to the One Day International series now where India wouldn’t get the service of their star opener Smriti Mandhana. She has been ruled out of the whole series after fracturing her right toe.
According to a BCCI spokesperson, she got injured after being struck by a ball while batting in the nets. Speedster Pooja Vastrakar has replaced her in the squad.
The three-match ODI series will be played in Vadodara between October 9 and 14.
Mandhana is one of the vital cogs for India whose prolific form saves India many a time.
After all, who doesn’t know her calibre?
She was in a formidable form in the limited-overs last season, including six scores over fifty and a hundred, in nine matches against Sri Lanka (away), New Zealand (away) and England (home). Overall, in 50 ODIs, she has amassed 1951 runs at 42.41, including four centuries and 16 half-centuries.
However, Smriti Mandhana had a rather forgetful T20I series against South Africa as she scored 21, 13, 7 and 5 respectively in the four finished games. Now she will be under observation by the BCCI’s medical team and there is no news on whether she will be fit in time to play the next series. The team is tentatively set to depart for West Indies on October 23.
“It’s a mild fracture,” coach WV Raman said in the press conference, alongside ODI captain Mithali Raj, on the eve of the first ODI. “The call [on Mandhana’s return] will be taken based on the assessment of the physios at the NCA. It’s difficult to fix the timeline either way because she still needs to get an MRI done because there is some swelling and it has to die down for the MRI to be taken. Once that’s done, only then the assessment can be made.”
However, Mandhana’s injury has opened the door for another youngster Priya Punia who is all set to make her ODI debut. Punia has so far played three T20Is against New Zealand but failed to impress with the bat.
As they say, when opportunity knocks your door, always be ready to take the chance as you never know how perfect something could turn out to be, Priya Punia is expected to grab the opportunity with both the hands.
Even the ODI captain Mithali Raj also backed Punia in the opening spot. “She (Smriti Mandhana) is an experienced player,” Raj said. “But other players, like Priya Punia, have scored a lot of runs in the domestic games. This series is not part of the ICC Women’s Championship. So that way it’s a chance for us to try out new players. And I am positive that whoever gets a chance will utilise it fully.”
The ODI series will see the return of both the stalwarts – Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami where the hosts begin as the favourites.
However, the poor form in the middle-order will remain a concern and the team will hope the presence of Mithali Raj will help to turn the table.
Young Jemimah Rodrigues has a lot of responsibility on her shoulder in Smriti Mandhana’s absence. As the vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur has been in a prolific form, she will provide the much-needed support in the middle as expected.
On the other hand, India have a strong bowling side, especially the spin-troika – Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Poonam Yadav. Alongside them, another name is Deepti Sharma who deserves a special mention for her outstanding show in the recently-concluded T20I series. They will provide a good support to pace-spearhead Jhulan Goswami, Shikha Pandey and Pooja Vastrakar.
The inclusion of, the bowling all-rounder Pooja Vastrakar can be guessed. As the World T20 around the corner, it seems the team management want to give her more time in the middle. She has a strike rate of 77.87. With her presence, she can make a solid contribution with the new ball as well as with the bat in the final overs. She has already shown that last year against Australia when she scored 51 off 56 in her second ODI while batting at 9 and etched her name in the record book.
However, looking at the squad, it can be said that India have covered all the bases.
The series shows a couple of interesting stats as well. When Mithali Raj will take the field tomorrow, she’ll become the first woman and fourth person ever (after Tendulkar, Jayasuriya & Miandad), to play ODIs over a 20-year span.
Apart from Smriti Mandhana (67.86), the only other Indian averaging over 40 in ODIs since the 2017 World Cup is none other than the ODI captain Mithali Raj (48.18).
Surprisingly, it’s over five years since any Indian made an ODI century at home. The last was Mithali Raj’s 104* against Sri Lanka at Visakhapatnam in January 2014.
As far as their last meeting’s concern, it was in 2018 when both the teams last faced each other where India won the three-match ODI series by 2-1.
Among these two teams, it wouldn’t be easy to pick one team or one player, but one can certainly expect the sparks on the 22 yards when both the teams take on each other and what can possibly be a better thing that women’s cricket is getting more popularity than before?
India squad: Mithali Raj (Captain), Harmanpreet Kaur (Vice-captain), Taniya Bhatia (Wicket-keeper), Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Jhulan Goswami, Dayalan Hemalatha, Mansi Joshi, Pooja Vastrakar, Shikha Pandey, Poonam Yadav, Priya Punia, Punam Raut, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma
Stats taken from @_hypocaust