SL v IND: Harmanpreet & Co. aim to get combination right ahead of Commonwealth Games

For any cricket team, touring Sri Lanka is a challenge. The conditions are different, the wickets often tend to aid the spinners and it becomes difficult to overcome the early jitters.

Harmanpreet Kaur will hope that her team does not have much trouble in the limited-overs series against Sri Lanka. The Indian cricketers haven’t played international cricket for nearly three months, so their initial target would be to make sure they assess the conditions well and then put their best foot forward.

The tour will be the first series for India in the post-Mithali Raj era, with the 39-year-old announcing her retirement from all forms of cricket a fortnight ago. With Mithali’s exit, Harmanpreet, who has been captaining India in the T20 format since 2018, has been elevated as the ODI captain too.

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While Harmanpreet believes it will be easier for her and the team to have a single captain for all formats, things may not be that rosy. With the Commonwealth Games around the corner, the Indian team management wants to treat this series as preparation for the multi-nation event to be held in Birmingham next month. Keeping that in mind, it will be important to get the playing combination right.

‘This will be the ideal platform to perform, where they can take charge. For me, it’s a great opportunity where you can build a good team because Sri Lanka is not going to be an easy tour for us.’

“We will freeze down a playing combination, which will take part in the Commonwealth Games, so that we are confident of walking into the tournament and players will be confident that they are going to play the first game,” India coach Ramesh Powar said.

‘Looking for consistency, winning habits’

And during the three-match T20I series, which begins in Dambulla on Thursday, that’s going to be the team’s approach.

“We are looking at consistency and winning habits… Moving forward, we want to win World Cups, but it’s important to build a squad that can compete in every condition and against every opponent. That’s what we are working on,” Powar had said before leaving for Sri Lanka.

Quite evidently, Powar and the team think-tank believe that with the side going through a transition, the young players need to be given chances to cement their places. In the absence of seasoned fast bowlers Shikha Pandey and Sneh Rana, the series against Sri Lanka could be a good opportunity for those who are playing to make a name and take charge.

“I think this is the time where they take the responsibility,” captain Harmanpreet said. “This will be the ideal platform to perform, where they can take charge. For me, it’s a great opportunity where you can build a good team because Sri Lanka is not going to be an easy tour for us.”

After leaving her out of the World Cup squad, the national selectors have picked Jemimah Rodrigues for the T20Is and the batter from Mumbai will be hoping to get a few opportunities to be in the reckoning for the Commonwealth Games. It’s a similar story for the other batters too. Returning to international cricket after a hiatus, here is a chance for them to get back into the rhythm and Harmanpreet, Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana would be looking forward to making their willows do the talking.

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Sri Lanka captain Chamari Chamari Athapaththu, however, has warned the touring team that they have got some planning done to tackle the Indian spinners, who have not been in their best of forms over the last few months. While many feel that the conditions in Sri Lanka would be helping the seasoned campaigners like Poonam Yadav to strike form, the host team, too, has the firepower to put up a strong fight.

There has hardly been a build-up to the series, barring a few media conferences. While spectators will be allowed for the series, quite surprisingly, Sri Lanka Cricket has still not revealed the broadcast schedule for the series at the time of publishing this story. But brushing the negatives aside, both the teams will be hoping to give their best shot. After all, the next couple of weeks will give them a fair idea in terms of their preparation ahead of the Commonwealth Games, and under a new captain, India needs to tick all the boxes.

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