SYLHET: An in-form India would look to carry forward the momentum of a historic ODI series sweep in England while trying to put behind the ‘Mankading’ controversy as it opens its Women’s Asia Cup T20 campaign against Sri Lanka here on Saturday.
The India women’s team has not had a lot of success of late in the T20 format but at the continental level, Harmanpreet Kaur’s side will start as clear favourite. Barring its only blemish in the previous edition of the tournament, India has won all the Asia Cup titles since the event’s inception in 2004 (4 in ODI format and 2 in T20 version).
The Asia Cup was transformed from ODI to T20I in 2012 and India has won twice, while losing to host Bangladesh in the last edition in 2018. And, India will be keen to assert its continental dominance in the tournament, which returns after a hiatus of four years.
The 2020 edition of the event in Bangladesh was first postponed to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic before being cancelled altogether. After clinching a historic silver medal at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, where women’s cricket made its debut in the T20 format, India suffered a 1-2 away defeat against England earlier this month.
But, the Harmanpreet-led side made a fantastic turnaround in the ODIs, clean sweeping England 3-0. The India series win, however, reignited an intense debate over the spirit of the game after Deepti Sharma ran out Charlie Dean during the third ODI as the English batter backed up too far at the non-striker’s end.
So, the India team would hope to move on from the incident and focus on the Asia Cup. On the team’s front, Harmanpreet has been in imperious form. Opening batter Smriti Mandhana, too, is in good touch, but Shafali Verma, Sabbhineni Meghana and Dayalan Hemalatha need their bats to do the talking.
Jemimah Rodrigues’s return, after missing the tour of England due to a hand injury, augurs well for India. Wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh, who made a comeback in England after missing out on the Commonwealth Games, is also in the mix.
Renuka Singh will lead India’s pace-bowling attack while Radha Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Deepti will be in charge of the spin department.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka will rely heavily on skipper Chamari Athapaththu to deliver the goods with the bat in the absence of young Vishmi Gunaratne, who is out due to a back stress fracture. The middle-order will revolve around Hasini Perera and Harshitha Samarawickrama while the bowling pack will be led by spinners Inoka Ranaweera and Oshadi Ranasinghe.
The tournament involves seven teams – India, Pakistan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the UAE and host Bangladesh. All teams will play each other in a round-robin format – a total of six matches each – with the top-four qualifying for the semi-finals.