The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced a list of 39 players for the upcoming Women’s T20 Challenge; which is scheduled to be played at Sawai Man Singh Stadium in Jaipur from May 6. The tournament which started with a one-off exhibition match last year has taken a little bigger shape and will be played for a single round-robin way, rounded off with the final on May 11.
Though it was expected that the players will be included from all over the world, Australia players missed out due to BCCI-CA disagreement. Last year, Alyssa Healy, Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry, Beth Mooney and Megan Schutt took part in the exhibition game along with other overseas players and Indian players, which ended on a last-ball thriller.
A new team has been added in the tournament- Velocity, which will be led by Indian ODI captain Mithali Raj. However, the exclusion of Australian players have made way for many other players like Sri Lanka’s Chamari Athapaththu, England’s Natalie Sciver and Sophie Ecclestone, Sakera Selman, Stafanie Taylor and Hayley Matthews from West Indies, New Zealand’s Amelia Kerr and Jahanara Alam from Bangladesh.
Harmanpreet Kaur (C), Anuja Patil, Arundhati Reddy, Chamari Athapaththu (SL), Jemima Rodrigues, Lea Tahuhu (NZ), Mansi Joshi, Natalie Sciver (ENG), Poonam Yadav, Priya Punia, Radha Yadav, Sophie Devine (NZ), Taniya Bhatia (WK)
Mithali Raj (C), Amelia Kerr (NZ), Danielle Wyatt (ENG), Devika Vaidya, Ekta Bisht, Hayley Matthews (WI), Jahanara Alam (B’DESH), Komal Zhanzad, Shafali Verma, Shikha Pandey, Sushma Verma (WK), Sushree Dibyadarshini, Veda Krishnamurthy
Smriti Mandhana (C), Bharti Fulmali, Dayalan Hemalatha, Deepti Sharma, Harleen Deol, Jasia Akhtar, Jhulan Goswami, R Kalpana (WK), Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Shakera Selman (WI), Sophie Ecclestone (ENG), Stafanie Taylor (WI), Suzie Bates (NZ)
All the three teams are comprised of world-class overseas players alongside the Indian players. The chosen domestic players are also in great form. Since, the three teams will play with each other, let’s have a look at what could be the best possible XI among the 39 chosen players.
India’s left-hand opener Smriti Mandhana is anyone’s first choice as the opener. She has been in a formidable form for the last one and half years. She became the only second Indian players to play in the Women’s Big Bash league (WBBL) and Kia Super League (KSL) after Harmanpreet Kaur.
Mandhana ended the KSL with 421 runs in 9 innings with a strike rate of 174.69 and at an average of 60.14, as the highest run-getter in the tournament. She was the third highest run-scorer in the ICC Women’s World T20 with 178 runs last year. She scored 318 runs in WBBL last year with the strike rate of 144.55. In International front, she has played 58 T20I games where she amassed more than 1200 runs so far with the strike rate of 119.08. This year is also getting better for her as she has already scored 252 runs in 6 innings which included 3 half-centuries. With this track record, she is the perfect fit for the opening slot.
England’s T20I opener Danielle Wyatt is one of the most dangerous openers in women’s T20I. With the second T20I century during the Tri-series in India last year, she stamped her authority in the World Cricket. Wyatt became the second woman player to score two T20I centuries after Deandra Dottin. She also registered the second highest individual T20I score (124) after Meg Lanning’s 126. Her 124 is also the highest individual score made by an opener. Along with this, she also scored the second fastest century in T20I (52 balls) just after Deandra Dottin (38 balls). With this blistering form, she could perfectly fit as the opener in any team.
Former New Zealand captain Suzie Bates is the highest run-getter in the Twenty20 Internationals, with 3100 runs with the strike rate of 112.23. She has amassed 763 runs in 19 innings from 2018. She became the first player both male and female to score 3000 T20I runs.
Moreover, she has 49 wickets in her name. She ended her WBBL 2018-19 stint as the fifth highest run-getter with the 421 runs from 14 innings and the fourth highest run-getter with 161 runs in the ICC World T20 in 2018. Her inclusion in any team could be a game changer.
The only player after Smriti Mandhana who has a double century in the domestic One Day League, Jemimah Rodrigues is one of the youngsters who has already proved her ability in the World Cricket. With 608 runs in 25 T20Is with the strike rate of 123.57 after having made her debut last year, Rodrigues is definitely one of the strong contenders in the playing XI.
India T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur is the first Indian woman cricketer to hit a century in the ICC World T20, last year. Her blistering form since her debut helped her to earn the chance to get selected in the WBBL and KSL.
She was the second highest run-scorer in the ICC World T20 in 2018 with 183 runs in 5 innings with the strike rate of 160.53. She ended 2018 with a high note, as the second highest run-getter in T20I, with 663 runs in 25 matches with the strike rate of 126.28. Her ability to change the game single-handedly helps to her side to win the game.
West Indies’ captain Stafanie Taylor has evolved as an all-rounder since her debut in 2008. Despite being batted from the first position to the eighth position, Taylor has scored more than 2500 T20I runs in 93 matches and has 82 wickets in her name at an economy of 5.44, with the best spell (4/12) against South Africa during the ICC World T20 last year. She has taken 19 wickets in 15 matches in the WBBL 2018-19. Her off-spin along with batting gives stability in the middle order.
Having the record of scoring the fastest T20 half-century from 18 balls – be it male or female, Sophie Devine is the key player for New Zealand since her debut in 2006. She also holds the record of scoring fastest 70 off 22 balls in T20 history. She ended the 2018-19 WBBL with a bang, amassing 556 runs in 13 innings, becoming the second highest run-getter in the tournament after Ellyse Perry.
Along with her batting, her right-arm medium pace also troubles the opponents. She had scored 473 runs in 16 innings and took 17 wickets in 15 innings last year, the highest in a year in her career so far. Her inclusion in any squad would provide a fine balance between batting and bowling.
Taniya Bhatia replaced Sushma Verma, the first choice wicketkeeper in the India team, last year in both the formats- ODI and T20I. On the back of strong domestic performance, she earned her maiden call up in the national team and soon proved her worth behind the stumps as well as in batting.
In 12 T20I innings played so far, she amassed 90 runs with the strike rate of 91.83, including 11 catches and 27 stumpings. Being the first International player from Chandigarh, Bhatia was named as one of the five breakout stars in women’s cricket in 2018 by ICC.
Though the pace spearhead of India, Jhulan Goswami retired from the Twenty20 International cricket, her experience and ability to take wickets in crucial moments make her one of the key players in any team. The stalwart of Indian Women’s Cricket, Goswami has 56 wickets from 68 matches with the best 5/11- which came against Australia in 2012. Her opening spell can pose a threat to the opponents.
The highest wicket taker of India in the shortest format of the game, Poonam Yadav is best known for her googly, that can trouble any batter in the World Cricket. Currently the number 2 bowler in the ICC T20I bowling ranking, she is any captain’s go-to bowler.
She has a decent economy of 5.69 in T20Is where she has two four-wicket hauls. 2018 proved to be a great year for her where she took 35 wickets in 25 matches at an economy of 5.80 with the best 4/9; which came against Bangladesh on the final of Asia Cup (4/9) in June last year. She was included in the ICC ODI and T20I team of the year in 2018. Her ability to restrict the run-flow and taking wickets in crucial times makes her more valuable in the team.
Left-arm orthodox spinner Ekta Bisht has a hat-trick in T20I which came during the match against Sri Lanka in the ICC World T20 in 2012. The fifth Indian to take the 100 International wickets and the third highest wicket-taker in the shortest format of the game in India, Bisht is the vital cog in any bowling line up.
Her brilliant performance with the ball earned her the place in both the ICC ODI and T20I Team of the Year in 2017. She was the only player named in both the squads. 53 wickets in 42 matches, Bisht’s best performance (4/21) came against England in the ICC World T20 in 2016. Her ability to dismiss the batters makes her a crucial part of any team.