15-year-old Shafali Verma was rewarded for excellent performances in the Women’s T20 Challenge in May with a maiden call-up to the Indian national women’s T20I squad. Another teenager, 19-year-old all-rounder Pooja Vastrakar, has been recalled to the team which will be led by Harmanpreet Kaur.
India’s T20I squad for the first three matches of the five-match series against South Africa, which starts from September 24 in Surat, was announced yesterday. With call-ups for Shafali, Pooja, and Harleen Deol, the selectors seem to be signalling a move towards youth as they replaced the likes of Ekta Bisht, Komal Zanzad, and Mithali Raj.
The uncapped right-handed batsman Shafali, who has never played the sport at senior level, was among the brightest players in the T20 tournament in May. She caught the eye of the likes of Dani Wyatt, her teammate at Velocity, with her hitting ability at the top of the innings. This came on the back of a blockbuster set of performances in the domestic T20 scene with Haryana during the 2018-19 senior women's inter-state T20 tournament. She amassed 186 runs in six innings at a strike rate in excess of 185, including a tournament-high 128 off just 56 balls against Nagaland.
Meanwhile, Pooja, who made her debut in June 2018, is making a comeback into the team after missing out on the Women’s World T20 last year through injury. The seam-bowling all-rounder has a strike rate of 137.09 and has taken 12 wickets in 11 T20Is. It is expected that she will partner one of either Shikha Pandey and Arundathi Reddy in India’s seam attack, while Mansi Joshi’s return to the squad offers up another option. The options in the spin department remain the same from the series loss against England, with the lone addition being the skipper Kaur who had missed that series.
Kaur also returns to the ODI set up as vice-captain under Mithali’s lead, for the three-match ODI series, which starts from October 9 in Vadodara. Mona Meshram has been left out following a string of poor performances against England and during India’s sub-par Asia Cup campaign in 2018. She will be replaced by Tamil Nadu's Dayalan Hemalatha takes her place in the squad, while Deol and Veda Krishnamurthy have also been dropped. Taniya Bhatia is the wicketkeeper in both squads.
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