Ahead of the World Cup, India gets to test itself against mighty Aussies in five T20s

The build-up to the series has been far from ideal, but the Indian women’s cricket team will be happy to give it a hard time against all-conquering Australia in the early part of the five-match T20 rubber.

With two months to go before the T20 World Cup in South Africa, the Harmanpreet Kaur-led side should also know exactly where they stand after the five games. Head coach Ramesh Powar was suddenly fired three days before the series opener and former India batsman Hrishikesh Kanitkar is now in charge of the support staff as the designated batting coach. India managed to win the Asian Cup in October, although they were guilty of a little too much experimentation which cost them a league game against Pakistan.

In the recent past, India has managed to compete with mighty Australia but failed to cross the line. One such instance was their last meeting in the Commonwealth Games final in August when India threw it out after a blinder from Harmanpreet in pursuit.

The batter looks calm and star hitter Smriti Mandhana is expected to score most of the runs. Her opening partner Shafali Verma, who will lead the U-19 World Cup next month, will come under pressure from the Australian pacers given her weakness against the short ball. Jemimah Rodrigues has shown good form since returning to the national team, while captain Harmanpreet has also regained his consistency. Harleen Deol and Yastika Bhatia have made a comeback after their productive run in the Challenger Trophy.

Leg spin bowling all-rounder Devika Vaidya has returned to the T20 side after eight years and her presence brings variety to the spin attack full of left-armers and offies. Renuka Thakur has been the team’s standout pacesetter for the past six months and she would hope for support from uncovered left arm sailor Anjali Sarvani.

Australia, led by Alyssa Healy in the absence of Meg Lanning, also has fresh faces in the line-up.

Expectations are high for 19-year old batter Phoebe Litchfield who is expected to fill the shoes of retired Rachael Haynes. The southpaw had spent a lot of time with Mandhana during last year’s WBBL. Ex-Irish pacer Kim Garth and Heather Graham are also expected to make their Australian debuts. Lanning is not part of the touring party, as she has taken an indefinite hiatus from the game.

Squad Australia: Alyssa Healy (c), Tahlia McGrath (vc), Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Heather Graham, Grace Harris, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Phoebe Litchfield, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland .

Indian Selection: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana (vc), Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Radha Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Renuka Singh Thakur, Meghna Singh, Anjali Sarvani, Devika Vaidya, S Meghana, Richa Ghosh, Harleen Deol. The game kicks off at 7:00 PM IST.

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