Shikha big miss in Women’s T20 challenge, selection inconsistency continues

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  With the Women’s T20 Challenge beginning on May 23 in Pune, the BCCI announced the squads for the three-team exhibition tournament in Pune on Monday. While Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur are set to lead Trailblazers and Supernovas as they did in the previous editions, Deepti Sharma will captain Velocity — the team that was led by Mithali Raj in 2021.

Veterans Mithali and Jhulan Goswami, who played their last World Cup in New Zealand, are not included in the squads. The other notable player to be left out was Shikha Pandey, who led Goa to the pre-quarterfinals in the recently concluded Senior T20 League.

As many as 12 overseas players will be taking part in the event including the World Cup winning leg-spinner Alana King, who will be the sole representative from Australia. Three South Africans and English, two West Indians and Bangladeshis and Natthakan Chantham from Thailand will also be playing in the tournament.

Sneh Rana, who led Railways to their tenth T20 title last month, is named deputy to Deepti in the Velocity side. The Bengal all-rounder, who was at the centre of it all in India’s final league game in the World Cup, vice-captained India in the final two ODIs against New Zealand in February.

Among the top performers from the T20 league, leading wicket-taker Aarati Kedar and Maya Sonawane from Maharashtra, the runner-ups, Nagaland’s Kiran Navgire, who smashed 525 runs at a strike rate of 172.69, Sujata Malik and Priyanka Priyadarshini from Odisha have been given an opportunity show their talents to a bigger on audience in the exhibition tournament that will be happening during the play-offs of the IPL.
Inconsistency in selections

Although some top talents have been rewarded with an opportunity, some of the calls taken by the women’s selection committee has left many bewildered. The top of the list is the omission of Pandey, who scored 223 runs at a strike-rate of 128.9 and took four wickets, and D Hemalatha whose 272 runs at 150 played a vital role in Railways winning the title.

While the champion team has the maximum of seven players to show in the upcoming event, followed by the other finalists Maharashtra (5), a cumulative of 14 players are picked from teams that did not make the knockouts, and a few among them hardly played all the group stage games. But, this isn’t the first time it’s happening. As India faced a group stage exit in the World Cup, one of the key issues that flew under the radar was the inconsistency in selections since the current committee took over in September 2020.

In ODIs, the squad for the South Africa series in March 2021, India’s first assignment since the pandemic broke, had several new names with Pandey, Veda Krishnamurthy, Taniya Bhatia being left out. From the 18-member squad, 7 were dropped for the subsequent tour of England, out of which not one played more than 3 ODIs and two didn’t get to play a single game. From the England series to the Australia tour, three players were dropped without being given a single game. Same was the case between Australia and the World Cup as Pandey, Jemimah Rodrigues were not just left out of 15, but did not even make the reserves without playing a single ODI in Australia.

Meanwhile, in T20Is, the selectors left out four players from the squad of 2020 World Cup for the South Africa series. From that squad to England, they made six changes without giving a game to three of them. From England to Australia, four changes were made, once again without being given a game. That there hasn’t been a single press conference meant that none of the decisions were given reasons are explained.

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