India Women tour of NZ: With focus on World Cup, IND starts series with one-off T20

ODI skipper Mithali Raj, who won't be playing the T20, said on Tuesday all the six games will be used to figure out their core players who will feature in the ICC event in March-April.

Though workload management has gained significance in COVID times, Mithali made it clear that it will be a secondary issue for them in the six games up ahead.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The Indian women's cricket team will get to fine tune its ODI World Cup preparations in a six-game limited overs series against host New Zealand, beginning with the one off T20 on Wednesday.

The one off T20 is scheduled ahead of the five ODIs starting February 12. Though the team will be looking to win, it will also be approaching the 20-over game to get used to the conditions with the bigger goal for World Cup in mind.

To reduce the COVID-19 threat, all games have been moved to the scenic Queenstown. The Indian squad arrived after completing a 10-day quarantine in Christchurch.

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ODI skipper Mithali Raj, who won't be playing the T20, said on Tuesday all the six games will be used to figure out their core players who will feature in the ICC event in March-April.

"It is a different format. The team will be looking forward to wining the game. Having said that, this T20 will also give a fair idea about the wickets, how the players are coping with an open ground," Raj said in a virtual media interaction referring to the windy conditions.

T20 skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, who ended her lean run with the bat with a successful Women's Big Bash League, will look to lead from the front on Wednesday. Though workload management has gained significance in COVID times, Mithali made it clear that it will be a secondary issue for them in the six games as it is important for fast bowlers to get used to the conditions.

"It will take them at least two or three games to get used to the conditions," she said.

"We are here to use this series as preparation for the World Cup because it is the best way we get to know about the wickets and composition we will have next month. We want to put in the our best standard of cricket so the team derives a lot of confidence when get into the World Cup.

"We play to win but I look forward to giving some game time to the core players. It is important they find their rhythm before the World Cup," Mithali added.

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New Zealand skipper Sophie Devine also stressed on testing out a few players in the series against India. Both teams are sailing in the same boat as far as finalising their combinations are concerned.

On the eve of the game, Devine called India the "sleeping giants" of women's cricket and said playing them will be an ideal preparation for the ICC showpiece.

"It is an interesting one (how to approach the series). It is about getting that balance right, the results are important but building momentum into the World Cup is going to extremely important.

"We also know this is an opportunity to test people out in different positions. Whether the results go our way or not we want to play the style we want to play. We want to be attacking and play to our strengths." The series will be played without spectators due to the COVID-19 threat.

Squads: India: Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Deepti Sharma, Richa Ghosh, Sneh Rana, Pooja Vastrakar, Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh, Taniya Bhatia, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Ekta Bisht, Simran Bahadur, Sabbhineni Meghana.

New Zealand: Sophie Devine (captain), Amy Satterthwaite(vc), Suzie Bates, Lauren Down, Maddy Green, Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen, Fran Jonas, Jess Kerr, Melie Kerr, Frankie Mackay, Rosemary Mair, Katey Martin, Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu.

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