It has been more than a month since Amol Muzumdar took over as the head coach of India’s women’s cricket team, and one of his first tasks has been to ensure that the team does not dwell over the past or bother too much about statistics.
For Muzumdar - a doyen of First-Class cricket - it is all about playing fearlessly and focusing a lot on fitness and fielding.
While he does not want to ‘compromise’ on those two crucial aspects, he has also advised the team to take each and every tournament seriously, leading up to next year’s T20I World Cup in Bangladesh.
When the Women in Blue square off against England in the first T20I at the Wankhede Stadium, which is also Muzumdar’s home ground, they hope to start afresh. From making it to the final of the triangular series in South Africa to claiming a gold medal in the Asian Games - it has been quite a fulfilling year for the Harmanpreet Kaur-led side.
But against England, it does not enjoy an impressive record. The two sides have met nine teams on Indian soil, of which the home team has only won twice - the last being an eight-wicket win at Brabourne Stadium in 2018. Its overall record against England is also concerning, with just seven victories from 27 outings.
The series, thus, presents India with an opportunity to improve its disappointing home record against England, which will miss out on the services of Charlie Dean, who’s down with a stomach bug.
The Indian team will rely on the batters to get going. While captain Harmanpreet Kaur has led from the front this year with 323 runs in 13 T20Is, including three fifties, Jemimah Rodrigues, too, has stamped her class, amassing 342 runs in 16 matches at an average of 34.20.
The team’s vice-captain Smriti Mandhana has topped the charts with 369 runs in 15 matches, with three fifties, while averaging 28.08.
Though she has been the most successful bowler with 19 wickets in 16 outings, Deepti Sharma has not been in her element with the bat in the death overs. The team has three new faces for this series, with right-arm Karnataka spinner Shreyanka Patil, Punjab’s left-arm spinner Mannat Kashyap and Bengal’s Saika Ishaque — another left-arm spinner — being roped in.
England, meanwhile, would be expecting spinners Sophie Ecclestone and Sarah Glenn to step up. Ecclestone is coming back from a surgery, after dislocating her right shoulder, but as England captain Heather Knight insisted, the World No. 2 team plans to put up a spirited performance despite the crowd cheering for the home team.
The focus will be on veteran Nat Sciver-Brunt’s all-round exploits, while Danni Wyatt and Ecclestone will also be hoping to play crucial roles.
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