Skipper Harmanpreet Singh’s two-match ban that will allow her to feature in the Hangzhou Asian Games T20 competition only if India reach the final won’t hurt the team but give other players an opportunity, former interim coach Nooshin Al-Khadeer said on Monday.
Harmanpreet was banned by ICC for smashing the stumps to protest her dismissal and then criticising the umpire in the third ODI loss to hosts Bangladesh in July.
“Harmanpreet is an experienced campaigner and a good captain… But then there is a chance for others to show their muscle in the middle and make most of the chances,” said Nooshin, who was coach of the victorious women’s U-19 World Cup team and the side that won the U-23 Emerging Asia Cup in Hong Kong.
The former India spinner urged everyone to move on from the incident in Dhaka. “Harmanpreet is back to cricket, let’s take some pride and glory in the fact that our men’s team won the Asia Cup and look at the Asian Games for more success for the men’s and women’s teams.”
Top-seeded India have a bye into quarter-finals, to be played on September 21. It won’t be a cakewalk for India as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have raised their level of late, doing well against South Africa, England and India, respectively.
“India should win gold; we have always done well against Asian sides. Medium-pacer Titas Sadhu is an exciting prospect, the way she has grown in fitness and skill after the U-19 World Cup.” All-rounder Pooja Vastrakar has come into the squad in place of the injured left-arm seamer Anjali Sarvani.
Nooshin said of the Hrishikesh Kanitkar-coached side: “Good time for youngsters to show their talent. It would be crucial for India’s success in the matches that Shafali Verma gives a start. T20 is her favourite format. Kanika Ahuja can do well with bat and ball. Richa Ghosh is a finisher and Minnu Mani is an exceptional player and an outstanding fielder.”
The spotlight will be on Smriti Mandhana, who will lead India in Harmanpreet’s absence. “I have seen Smriti doing well whenever she has had the chance to lead. She also captains Maharashtra. Her approach towards youngsters is remarkable, they look up to her. Mithali Raj (former skipper) used to be calm while Harmanpreet is the aggressive one. Smriti too is calm.” Mandhana has led India in 11 matches.
Hangzhou is expected to be hot and humid and Nooshin expects spinners to play a key role.
“Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have had success in recent tournaments. India too have a strong line-up,” she said. “The Asian Games matches will be thrilling, it would have been even better to have more games. The key will be the spinners; I am happy left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad is back in the team.”
The women’s tournament will take place from September 19 to 25. Group A has Indonesia and Mongolia and Group B Hong Kong and Malaysia. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have been granted direct entry into the last eight.
The matches will be telecast live on Sony Sports Network and streamed on Sony Liv.