(From left) Thirush Kamini, Nagarajan Niranjana, Ekta Bisht and Poonam Yadav © Getty Images
India Women travel to England to play one-off Test and three One-Day Internationals (ODIs). India will play their first Test match after a gap of eight years. The squad of 15 has only three experienced Test players. Sudatta Mukherjee chalks out the five players from the other twelve that the cricket fans should watch out for.
India Women last visited The British Isles in 2012, where they played one One-Day International (ODI) against Ireland and two Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) and five ODIs against England. While the two nations face each other in an one-off Test match after eight years, that was also the last time India women played a Test match.
In the of 15-member squad, apart from skipper Mithali Raj, vice-captain Karuna “Karu”Jain and pacer Jhulan Goswami, no one has played a Test before. For the 12 others, the match is an opportunity for them to be a part of a Test match.
Apart from the celebrities in the Indian team, there are some who will be taking the ground to prove a point. Here are the five players to watch out for as India women play a Test after eight years.
1. Thirush Kamini
Thirush made her debut as a 16-year-old in 2006 where she scored 22 runs and registered match-winning figures of three for 19. Compared to most of the players in the squad, she has been in international cricket. Playing her first Test match England, it will not be easy for her. Thirush has a tendency of going after the spinners and she is very effective against off-spin. It should be good news for that the Wormsley wicket has favoured off-breaking bowlers, against whom Thirush has been most successful.
2. Nagarajan Niranjana
The Chennai-born bowler has had good outing against England in the past. Of her 15 ODIs, she has played eight against England. She has picked up 10 out of her 21 ODI wickets in England and has a bowling average of 16.20. She topped the bowling charts during India’s last tour of England. Adding to that, Niranajana is quite effective with both the new and old ball.
3. Ekta Bisht
The left-arm spinner picked up three wickets in the two-day warm-up match at Haslegrave Ground, Loughborough. Ekta has been an integral part of the team since making her debut in 2012. Ekta should be brought in at a time when the ball is a little old. Over a period of time, she has been crucial in breaking partnerships.
4. Poonam Raut
With no Harmanpreet Kaur in the team, Poonam Raut will be crucial in the batting line-up. The Mumbai batswoman, who usually comes at No 3 or 4, and has had good partnerships over time with skipper Mithali Raj. She has scored 634 runs in ODIs, and has an average of 45.28. If neither Mithali nor Karuna Jain open the innings, either Poonam or Thirush will partner Smriti Mandhana, with whom Poonam’s partnership average is over 50.
5. Smriti Mandhana
The young Mumbai cricketer probably has a better batting average than many when compared to those who entered the game with her. Smriti Mandhana’s highest score in limited-overs cricket is 155. Not only that, she scored a double-hundred in the West Zone Women’s Under-19 ODI tournament last year, becoming the first woman to do so in India. Incidentally, Smriti has batted with Rahul Dravid’s bat in that match. “I have been scoring very well since the time I have started playing with Dravid-Sir’s bat. My brother met Dravid during his visit to Bangalore last year and told him about my passion for cricket. Dravid gifted his practice bat to me and since then I have been playing with it,” Smriti told in an interview with Times of India.
India will have a young and inexperienced team. However, like someone said, they might be young and inexperienced but they are talented and with the right kind of training and guidance, they can become a successful unit. With the experience of Mithali, Karuna and Jhulan to back them, the Test match will be a stepping stone for the young women cricketers.
(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)