India’s trip of three T20Is and as many ODIs to Sri Lanka from June 23 to July 7 will kickstart their life post the veteran duo of Mithali Raj, who announced her international retirement earlier this month and pacer Jhulan Goswami, who didn’t play in their final league match of the 50-over World Cup against South Africa, which ended in a last-ball loss and brought curtains on their quest to win the trophy.
Minus the experience of 433 ODIs of Mithali and Jhulan, India are now embarking on a journey of rebuilding their bowling attack, especially in the pacers department, with Commonwealth Games this year, T20 World Cup next year and ODI World Cup in 2025.
Apart from young pacers Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh and all-round skills of Pooja Vastrakar, they also have another pacer in Simran Bahadur. Asked in the pre-departure virtual press conference about developing India’s new bowling attack, Harmanpreet Kaur insisted that the Sri Lanka tour gives young bowlers chances to take control of their game.
“If we talk about our bowling unit, this is the time where they can take the responsibility. This tour will be the ideal platform for them to perform and take the charge of bowling their full quota. For me, it’s a great opportunity to build a good team. Sri Lanka will not be an easy tour for us. But whatever we are planning, we should go and deliver, which is what we are looking forward to as a unit.”
Apart from Mithali and Jhulan, left-arm spinner Ekta Bisht is absent so as all-rounder Sneh Rana, with Harleen Deol rewarded for being third highest run-scorer and averaging 60.33 in the Senior Women’s One-Day Challenger Trophy. “If I talk about our team, we have a great combination. It’s a good tour to start as it’s the first time we are going to play without our seniors and I think a great opportunity for all of us to build a team. I think we have done great preparation during this NCA camp.”
Asked about the preparation done in the camp prior to departing for Sri Lanka, Harmanpreet said, “The camp we had was very small of only four-five days. We tried to cover each and every thing like where we are standing right now in our fitness. We tried to play one 50-over game because of rain. But we did cover all the things which we wanted to do as a unit.”
The biggest challenge for Harmanpreet & Co will come from Sri Lanka skipper Chamari Athapaththu, who smacked a blistering 101 and took two wickets in her side signing off from their tour of Pakistan last month with a win in the third and final ODI earlier this month.
“If we talk about Chamari, we know that she is someone who is leading from the front. We do have some plans for her and last time when we went to Sri Lanka (in 2018), we did try those things. This time also, we have been watching her videos and we did plan a few things for her. Now when we will get two-three practice sessions, we will try those things. Once we get to playing, we will make sure that we will be clear with our plans and what we will be able to execute in the game.”
Amidst all this, Harmanpreet paid gratitude to Mithali and her impact on the national side. “As we all know she has done great for women’s cricket. I don’t think there is anyone who can fill this place. We are working hard on the team where we can create some winning combinations and all. If we talk about Mithali di, I don’t think there is anyone who can take her place and we will always miss her in our dressing room.”