Indian women aim to qualify combination in ODI series against New Zealand with World Cup in sight

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With an extended quarantine in place to keep star batsman Smriti Mandhana out, the Indian women’s cricket team will be looking to iron out some combination issues when they kick off the five-ODI series against New Zealand here on Saturday.

The New Zealand tour started with a setback after the visitors lost by 18 races in the unique T20I and skipper Mithali Raj will be keen to give the team a winning start to their crucial ODI campaign ahead of ICC World. Cup next month.

Playing through windy conditions on smaller grounds will be a challenge, but it will also keep them in good standing when they show up for the World Cup here from March 4. Player availability has also been an issue for the Indian team with Mandhana and pacers. Renuka Singh and Meghana Singh missed the first game due to extended Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ).

His absence will be an opportunity to try out other players as the team looks to field its core players ahead of the ICC event. In the only T20I, the batting disappointed and Mithali has his task cut out as he tries to put together a playing XI that can get the job done in the absence of top players.

Yastika Bhatia, who scored 26 opening innings with Shafali Verma in T20I, is likely to retain her position in Mandhana’s absence, while India will need to sort out their middle order, which revolves around Mithali.

The spotlight will also be on Harmanpreet Kaur, who was only able to score 12 in T20I despite coming off a successful Big Bash campaign in which she was named Player of the Tournament. In the bowling department, veteran Jhulan Goswami, who retired from the shorter format in 2018, will lead the charge and share the new ball with Pooja Vastrakar, who claimed two wickets in T20I.

However, Simran Bahadur will be looking for a better show after receiving 26 strokes in two overs on Thursday. New Zealand, on the other hand, will be looking to carry the momentum after winning the one-off T20I. The hosts have a poor record in one-day events, having won just two of the last 20 ODIs.

Captain Sophie Devine will also be looking to ensure her best XI qualify before the World Cup on home soil. The hosts’ batting looks good with Suzie Bates and Devine giving the team a strong start in the T20 game, while Maddy Green and Lea Tahuhu have also gotten the job done in the middle.

In the bowling unit, pacemakers Jess Kerr and Hayley Jensen had each taken two wickets in the T20 game, while spinner Amelia Kerr also caught two. New Zealand also has the option to go to young left-arm shooter Fran Jonas and shooter Frankie Mackay.

Squads:

India: Mithali Raj (C), Harmanpreet Kaur (vice-captain), Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Deepti Sharma, Richa Ghosh (goalkeeper), Sneh Rana, Jhulan Goswami, Pooja Vastrakar, Taniya Bhatia (goalkeeper), Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Simran Dil Bahadur.

New Zealand: Sophie Devine (C), 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 .

The match starts at 3:30 AM (IST).

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