Harmanpreet: Sri Lanka tour ‘ideal platform’ for young bowlers to step up

The upcoming tour of Sri Lanka will be the “ideal platform” and the “right time” for the young quick bowlers to grab their “opportunities” in the absence of the experienced Jhulan Goswami and Shikha Pandey. Harmanpreet Kaur, India’s newly-appointed ODI captain, and head coach Ramesh Powar, laid out the plans for the team before departing for the Sri Lanka tour, as they look to fine-tune their plans for the Commonwealth Games starting next month and the T20 World Cup next year in South Africa.

The omission of Goswami, Pandey and allrounder Sneh Rana were among the talking points when the squads were picked for the ODIs and T20Is in Sri Lanka. While Rana was “rested,” Powar explained, he also hinted that Goswami and Pandey had been dropped.

While India’s spin attack includes experienced names like Deepti Sharma, Poonam Yadav and Rajeshwari Gayakwad apart from Radha Yadav (only for T20Is), the pace attack features Pooja Vastrakar, Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh and allrounder Simran Bahadur.

“I think if we talk about our bowling unit, this is the time they can take responsibility and this tour will be the ideal platform for them to perform,” Harmanpreet said at a virtual press conference on Saturday. “We will take the charge and bowl [their] full quota [of overs]. For me, it’s a great opportunity where you can build a good team. Sri Lanka is not going to be an easy tour for us. So, it’s important [to ensure that] whatever we are planning we go and deliver. That’s what as a unit we are looking forward to.”

Powar further said this tour will open the doorway for further growth among youngsters.

“When you move forward in a transition period, you need to give opportunities to young players to cement their places,” he said. “For that as a support staff, we need to go and give them support through NCA and skill coaches that they should concur in every situation. So, this is the right time for players to take their opportunity and do well going forward.

“As far as pace bowling is concerned, you’ve seen from the Australia tour, we’ve introduced Renuka and Meghna, we introduced a few bowlers in the system as well. So, it will take a little time to see the results because they have to address their fitness and match experience.

“As far as Jhulan and Shikha are concerned, I think they have done a fantastic job over the years and BCCI and selectors can update on their fitness and everything. As of now, Shikha and Jhulan are not travelling with us.

“So, whichever bowlers are there – we are carrying four fast bowlers – you will see results from them. Pooja Vastrakar has been an outstanding bowler for the last six months. Moving forward, we will try and fast-track this fast bowling attack’s improvements.”

Rana, he said, was given time off to stay “fresh” for the busy calendar ahead.

“She’s been rested for this series, she’s in NCA,” Powar said. “She’s working on her fitness and moving forward. In the FTP we have 20-25 T20 games and some ODI series, so we want her to be fresh for those series. We are trying to manage workload of the bowling as well as the batting unit and are trying to balance it out”

This will be India’s first international assignment since the Women’s World Cup in March, where they bowed out in the group stages after a loss in the virtual quarter-final against South Africa.

This will also be the first time in over two decades where the batting order will not feature Mithali Raj, who announced her retirement recently. Taking over the ODI captaincy too, Harmanpreet felt the leadership centralisation could aid clarity among the team members too.

“I think things will be easier for me now because [when] two different captains were there, sometimes things were not easy because we both had different ideas,” she said. “But now the players will think clearly [and know] what I am demanding as a captain, and everybody can look forward to that. It’s easier for me to ask them what I’m expecting from them, so things will be much easier for me and my team-mates also.”

With the Commonwealth Games around the corner and a T20 World Cup next year, Harmanpreet and Powar talked about assessing where the team stood right now and how they will approach the upcoming games.

“In T20s we will definitely look to [play] our first combination, give them as many games as possible,” Harmanpreet said. “In the ODIs, we have a little time to prepare for the next World Cup [in 2025] and it is where we will see if we can give chance to each and everybody.”

Powar said they will also freeze a combination of 11 on the Sri Lanka tour for the Commonwealth Games.

“At this moment, we are trying to assess where we stand as a team and where we need to get at to beat all the teams in the ICC tournaments and in every series we play. This Sri Lanka tour will give us the opportunity to try a few players. We are trying to plan our next eight months according to the situations we have to face ahead. It is more of a planning phase right now and we will execute those plans once we go ahead in the series and tournaments.

“To add to that, we will freeze down a combination of 11 which will take part in Commonwealth so that we are confident walking into the tournament. And the players will be confident that they are going to play in the first game.”

India and Sri Lanka will play three T20Is in Dambulla on June 23, 25 and 27 followed by as many ODIs on July 1, 4 and 7.

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