mithali raj
Mithali Raj (Credit: ICC)

Having recently lost to India consecutively in two top ICC tournaments, New Zealand will look to avenge the losses in the upcoming ICC Women’s Championship series, that begins with the first of the three-match ODI rubber in Napier on Thursday.

The White Ferns lost to India at the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 before again losing to the women-in-blue at the ICC Women’s World T20 2018.

The hosts now get a chance to outdo the opposition in home conditions in the Women’s Championship that gives ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2021 hosts New Zealand and four other top teams direct entries to the premier event two years from now.

The remaining three sides will get another chance through the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier.

New Zealand are presently in second position on the points table with 12 points from nine matches while India are fifth with eight points and ahead of Pakistan only on net run rate.

Defending champions Australia lead the table with 16 points from nine outings.

New Zealand have played England, Pakistan and the West Indies so far while India have completed their engagements against Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

Going in to Thursday’s match, India will bank on their top order batting comprising the likes of skipper Mithali Raj, opener Smriti Mandhana and T20I skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, to provide a solid platform for the bowling department led by the veteran Jhulan Goswami.

Commenting on the upcoming tie, Mithali said: “These matches are going to be very important for us. India are presently at number five on the points table, so it is very important from that perspective that we gain as many points from this ODI series.”

“Beating New Zealand in the World Cup in England and the World T20 recently, it definitely gives us a psychological advantage, but again, we are playing in different conditions, we are playing New Zealand in their backyard, so it is important that the Indian team acclimatise to the conditions.”

“It is definitely going to be a very competitive series for India and New Zealand,” she added.

While New Zealand will miss the services of wicketkeeper-batter Katey Martin, who is unavailable due to work commitments, India will be wary of the likes of match-winners like former captain Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine.

Mithali’s counterpart Amy Satterthwaite said she realises the importance of the series and the capability of the opposition while looking forward to the advantage of playing in home conditions.

“This series will be hugely important considering how close the top teams are in the Women’s Championship at present. We’ve made a good start but there is still a lot of cricket to be played and every team will be looking to climb the ladder in the remaining games,” Amy said.

“You can’t afford to take any game or series lightly and we will be doing everything in our power to put our best performances on the park at home against India.”

“I think any time you lose to an opponent you are inspired to improve next time and square the ledger. India have had the better of us at recent world tournaments but we haven’t played a series against them since 2015.

“We respect the quality that the Indian side have across the board and won’t be taking them lightly. I guess if you had to pick one out, we will be doing our best to contain Harmanpreet Kaur — she is a world-class player and we’ve seen that on numerous occasions. You also can’t go past the experienced duo of Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami,” she added.

After Thursday’s opener, both the sides will move to Tauranga for the second and third games on January 29 and February 1, respectively.

Squads

New Zealand: Amy Satterthwaite (Captain), Suzie Bates, Bernadine Bezuidenhout (WK), Sophie Devine, Lauren Down, Maddy Green, Holly Huddleston, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Katie Perkins, Anna Peterson, Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu.

India: Mithali Raj (Captain), Tanya Bhatia (WK), Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Jhulan Goswami, Dayalan Hemlatha, Mansi Joshi, Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Mona Meshram, Shikha Pandey, Punam Raut, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Poonam Yadav.