Coming off a six-month layoff, India women showed no signs of rustiness, by winning the ODI series first before capping off the tour with the T20I series win too. While India women’s ODI setup looks quite settled, their T20 cricket is still a work in progress, as highlighted by senior pro Mithali Raj. While the T20I skipper Harmanpreet Kaur echoed the same thoughts, she made a special mention of India’s latest discovery in Jemimah Rodrigues.
The 17-year-old earned her maiden international call-up on this tour but failed to get a chance during the ODIs. However, once she landed her first opportunity in the first T20I of the series, she scored a quick 37. Rodrigues, who is an opening batter, has had to bat at No.4 thanks to the presence of a settled combination of Mithali Raj and Smriti Mandhana as openers, and Harmanpreet at No. 3. But on Saturday in the final T20I she got an opportunity at No. 3 ahead of Harmanpreet and scored a brisk 44.
“We just decided that if we lose an early wicket then we can send her (at No. 3). Basically she is an opener but we have Smriti and Mithali and we can’t just tell them to sit and give her a chance,” Harmanpreet said. “That is the reason we decided that if we lose an early wicket we can send her and give her a chance to do well. In the last game when she came, she had a lot of pressure on her because we lost two early wickets but today was a good chance to promote her and we just gave her a chance and she executed very well.
“She has done really well in the domestic level and that gave her confidence to do well in the international level. I know she is very young but we know what she is capable of doing for the Indian team. She is young and we do need young players in our team who can do better in international cricket,” the skipper added.
Harmanpreet, who much like Raj, feels that India’s T20 game needs to develop a lot more, believes that young girls like Rodrigues need to be tried without putting too much pressure on them. “As a team we are looking for young girls who can come and perform for the country so that we can build our team (for the future). If we talk about a 50-over game our team is quite settled now but in T20s we’re still working on our team and that’s the reason we are giving chances to young girls and build our team for the T20 World Cup.
“Of course we don’t want to rush her. We just want to give a chance to all the girls and we just want them to perform so that we can build a team. We don’t want to rush on anything because when we rush it’s always hard and difficult to decide anything.”
Harmanpreet also credited how fitness has played an important role in escalating their game to a different level. “If we talk about two years back, we were lacking in our fitness levels. As a team we were just working on our fitness levels – when your fitness goes high you can improve in all your cricket areas. That fitness gave us a lot of confidence to do well in our fielding, bowling and batting departments,” opined Harmanpreet.
The skipper, who through her 17-ball 27 helped India post 166, read the wicket well and passed on the information duly to her bowlers. She noted during her innings that the surface was slower and lower than the other ones they had played on, and urged India’s bowlers to bowl keeping that in mind. “Today the wicket was very different, it was a bit low and when someone was bowling a bit quicker it was easy to bat on. When I was batting, they bowled up to me with full pace it was easy for batting. When they were bowling short and slower deliveries, it was hard to play. After my batting, I passed this message to my bowlers so that they can do that. I think the bowlers really read the wicket and bowled according to the wicket. That gave us a good and positive result,” Harmanpreet mentioned.
Harmanpreet didn’t shy away from heaping praises on her ODI skipper, Raj. Raj, who scored three fifties from the four T20Is, was once again at the forefront of India’s performances and ended the tour as the second highest run-getter, after Mandhana. “She’s the most experienced player in the side and whenever she performs, we always put up a good total on the board and today also she did really well. Her experience always gives us a lot of confidence to do well in international cricket. Hopefully, she plays for two-three more years,” said Harmanpreet.