Women's T20: India ready to salvage pride in final game

New Zealand won the series by clinching a last-ball thriller in Auckland.

Smriti Mandhana is has been in excellent form for India on this tour.   -  AFP

An improved batting performance will be foremost on skipper Harmanpreet Kaur’s mind, when India women take on New Zealand in the inconsequential third and final T20 International here on Sunday.

After winning the ODI series 2-1, Indian women lost momentum and subsequently the T20 series.

With an aim to build a squad for ICC World T20 next year, the Indian team management decided to drop team’s senior batswoman Mithali Raj, who is no longer considered a force to reckon with in the shortest format.

Read: Ahead of England series, plenty to ponder for women's selection panel

Only time will tell whether this decision pays dividends in the long run but the results have been far from encouraging in the first two matches which India lost by 23 runs and four wickets respectively.

“We are building a team. Today, we may be facing difficulties but in future we will do well as the young players gain experience. I think the future is good for the team and results will follow,” skipper Harmanpreet said after conceding the series.

Harmanpreet: Learnt lessons from the loss

India failed to get past the 140-run mark in the first two T20Is, something it must address sooner than later, starting with the final match in Hamilton.

The biggest problem has been the lack of fight from the middle-order save Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues, who were the top-scorers in the first two games.

Debutant Priya Punia’s lack of experience has been evident but probably what hurt the Women in Blue most is skipper Harmanpreet’s indifferent form.

The Indian captain scored 17 and 5 in the first two outings. She has been rusty due to lack of batting time since the start of the ODI series which the visitor won comfortably.

“We did not win the series but more than winning and losing, we learnt a lot. We have a very young squad, there are very few players who have played more than 30 matches. Most of the players have played less than 10 T20I matches. It is a good learning process for us,” Harmanpreet has rued the lack of experience.

One of the biggest problems for the team has been deciding on what exactly is Deepti Sharma’s role in the squad.

As an off-spinner, she is neither as restrictive as left-arm spinner Radha Yadav nor an attacking option like leg-spinner Poonam Yadav.

If the think-tank is unable to find Deepti’s replacement, it will further amplify the lack of quality on the bench.

The White Ferns have responded in style since losing the ODI series with senior batswoman Suzie Bates scoring 57 in the final one dayer and a match-winning 62 in the second T20 International.

Match starts 8.30 am IST.

Squads

India: Harmanpreet Kaur(c), Smriti Mandhana, Mithali Raj, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia, Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav, Anuja Patil, Ekta Bisht, Dayalan Hemalatha, Mansi Joshi, Arundhati Reddy, Shikha Pandey, Priya Punia

New Zealand: Amy Satterthwaite(c), Suzie Bates, Bernadine Bezuidenhout, Sophie Devine, Hayley Jensen, Caitlin Gurrey, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Frances Mackay, Katey Martin, Rosemary Mair, Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu