Delhi [India]: As captain Mithali Raj aims to avoid the qualifiers ahead of the 2021 World Cup, the unexpected absence of vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur has dwindled the Indian women’s team, which will take on England in the one-day international series, starting on Friday.
Kaur, who is going through a lean patch, was ruled out of the entire series after sustaining an ankle injury during the training session. The all-rounder comes with ample experience under her belt, which the team will miss when India meet England at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, as part of the ICC Women’s Championship.
India are currently third on the table with 12 points from as many games. With the Blue Brigade unlikely to play Pakistan because of political issues, this series will be crucial to winning to avoid qualifiers ahead of the World Cup.
Having seen Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues among the runs at the backyard of New Zealand in the recent series, Raj-led side will have to make sure — win the ODIs to remain in the top four to directly qualify for the 2021 tournament and deny England’s dream to clinch first ever bilateral series on Indian soil.
Wankhede’s red soil pitch, a batting paradise, helps the spinners during the last couple of day. Slow bowlers Deepti Sharma, Ekta Bisht and Poonam Yadav, who all are considered the bowling strength of India, will face challenges in restricting the consistent and ever strong Heather Knight-led English side, which has recalled Sarah Taylor.
The bowling department has an all-round look with pace attack being led by veteran Jhulan Goswami and features the likes of Shikha Pandey and Mansi Joshi.
England, placed seventh on the ICC table with ten points from nine games, can trouble India with its spinner Sophie Ecclestone, experienced pace duo of Anya Shrubsole and Natalie Sciver.
The visitors will, however, miss the services of all-rounder Jenny Gun, who has been given a break from the series after years of touring and recently retired off-spinner Danielle Hazelle.
India and England last met in April 2018 for a three-match bilateral series, where Raj-led side defeated the visitors 2-1, avenging the shattered dream of lifting the 2017 World Cup, where India fell nine runs short.
The reigning World Cup champions England and the runner-ups India will begin their three-match ODI series at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Friday, followed by the second and third match on February 25 and 28 respectively.
Following are the squads:
India: Mithali Raj (captain), Jhulan Goswami, Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wicket-keeper), R Kalpana (wicket-keeper), Mona Meshram, Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Shikha Pandey, Mansi Joshi, Punam Raut, Harleen Deol
England: Heather Knight (captain), Tammy Beaumont, Sarah Taylor (wicket-keeper), Danielle Wyatt, Natalie Sciver, Laura Marsh, Anya Shrubsole, Katherine Brunt, Amy Jones (wicket-keeper), Lauren Winfield, Kate Cross, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Alex Hartley.