Why no Jemimah, no Shikha in Women's World Cup squad?

Former national selectors Gargi Banerjee and Sudha Shah believe the exclusion of Jemimah is unfortunate, and that she was not groomed properly in these years.

FILE PHOTO: Jemimah Rodrigues has missed the Women's ODI World Cup bus.   -  The Hindu

India’s women’s national selection panel, under the leadership of Neetu David, has been adventurous ever since taking charge last year. In its ‘debut’ series against South Africa at home, it left out Shafali Verma from the ODIs along with the seasoned Shikha Pandey.

A series defeat meant both Verma and Pandey were back in the scheme of things for the tour of England and Australia.

But ahead of the Women’s World Cup, the selectors have once again gambled, leaving out three seasoned campaigners - Jemimah Rodrigues, Shikha Pandey and Punam Raut - from the India squad. While Ekta Bisht is a standby, Harleen Deol, too, does not feature in the side.

Sources aware of the development confirmed to Sportstar that despite being fit, Pandey and Jemimah were left out because of ‘underwhelming’ performances in the format. And the Indian cricket board does not allow the selectors to speak to the media. So, their versions remain unavailable.

The 32-year-old Pandey last played an ODI in July, during the England tour, and was not part of the playing eleven in Australia. Jemimah, too, featured in an ODI in England in July, where she scored just four runs.

READ| Indian squad for 2022 Women's World Cup: Ekta, Jemimah out; Renuka in

Opting for Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh Thakur, Yastika Bhatia - the selectors have indicated that the focus is on the youngsters and it is evident that they give more importance to current form than reputation.

Former India international and erstwhile national selector Gargi Banerjee believes that this is a balanced side, which has the potential to make it big in the World Cup, which begins in March. “It is a very balanced side. Most of them are seasoned all-rounders and this blend of youth and experience will help the side. The best part is that most of the players are experienced and have featured in ICC tournaments in the past. That’s a big plus going into the World Cup. In such a big tournament, there is no scope for experiment,” Banerjee, who was the manager of the team for the tour of Australia, told Sportstar.

While Banerjee is impressed with the way Sneh Rana made her way into the squad, the exclusion of a ‘genuine’ talent Jemimah does hurt her. “Jemimah is an extremely talented player, but I must say that we could not groom her well. After she broke into the team at an early age, we should have ensured that she did not lose the way, and should have groomed her. But that did not happen. So, despite being such a fine talent, she was on and off,” Banerjee said.

“We should have worked on her batting a bit earlier so that she could have been ready for the World Cup. It is unfortunate that a player of her calibre is missing out on the tournament…”

Being a former selector, Banerjee believes that the decision to look beyond Pandey and Raut could have been taken because of their inconsistent performance in the format. “Shikha, Punam and Ekta have been given a lot of chances. But to be honest, they have not been consistent. Shikha has slowed down a bit and with youngsters coming up, maybe the selectors thought of giving them a chance,” Banerjee said.

Shikha Pandey.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Former India captain Sudha Shah, who was a national selector until a couple of years ago, is of the opinion that Jemimah should have been in the squad. “Jemimah is more of a 50-over player, so she should have lent more stability to the batting department. No doubt she was out of form, but she had a good stint in The Hundred and the WBBL and her confidence had a boost. So ideally, she should have been there in the squad,” Shah said. “Shikha, too, with her experience could have added to her bowling…”

With the selectors pinning hopes on quite a few inexperienced players, Shah believes that the middle-order needs to be worked on. “The side looks a bit inexperienced, so I think it could have been balanced. Our middle-order needs some work because we have often lost the control of a game in the middle-overs, so it is important to address that area ahead of the World Cup,” she added.

The 2017 World Cup had changed the dynamics of India’s women’s cricket and as another tournament beckons, five years later, Mithali Raj’s team has plenty to ponder.

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