As we drew the curtains on the India-England series on Wednesday, there were many takeaways for both sides. England won the first-ever multi-format series that they played against India 10-6 as they managed to draw the one-off Test, win the ODI series 2-1, and the T20I series 2-1 as well. On the other hand, India may have lost the series but they certainly gained some positives going into the Australia series that will start in September.
India went with a strong squad of 18 members for Test and ODIs and 17 members for the T20Is. Though most of the members of the squad got the opportunity to play in either of the formats, there were three such players who missed out on getting some action in the middle. They were there but on the sidelines.
The 24-year old made her ODI and T20I debut in 2019 but since then the right-hand top-order bat has featured in only 7 ODIs and 3 T20Is. Despite getting limited opportunities, she has been impressive in the 50-over format. She has scored 225 runs, including two half-centuries in 7 innings at an average of 37.50. Though her numbers look good, her strike rate of 59.05 may have gone against her. She last played an ODI on March 17, 2021 against South Africa in Lucknow. She opened the batting alongside Smriti Mandhana. Given the fact that Shafali Verma was not a part of the ODI squad for the South Africa series, Punia may have got that chance at the top of the order.
In this England series, since the 17-year old Verma was a part of the Test, ODI, and T20 squad, Punia’s chances in the playing XI looked bleak. India could have tried her at number 3 in the ODIs, but the team management preferred Jemimah Rodrigues over her to replace Punam Raut, who was the original choice for number 3. Punia might consider herself as unlucky as Rodrigues (21 ODIs), who no doubt is more experienced than her, but her numbers apart from a relatively better strike rate (68.76) do not look promising compared to Punia.
On the back of her prolific domestic performance, the wicket-keeper bat from Jharkhand was selected for the Indian team across all formats for the England series. The right-hand top-order bat was the leading run-getter in the domestic 50-over competition with 456 runs in 8 matches. There were expectations that she might get a go in the T20Is but unfortunately, that didn’t happen. A Test or an ODI debut was a long shot as there was already Taniya Bhatia in the ranks, who is enjoying her purple patch behind the stumps.
In the T20Is, India preferred Richa Ghosh, who is a better batter than Bhatia and can use the long handle to get those useful runs down the order. Could India have tried Indrani for one of the games? The fact that she is a top-order bat may have gone against her as India at present has an established opening pair. Roy is yet to make her international debut but we can only hope that she is a part of the squad that travels to Australia in September.
The young right-arm quick from Delhi was a part of India’s T20I squad, however, she did not get a chance in the England series. She featured in the playing XI for the South Africa series, where she bowled nine overs, gave away 66 runs and picked up one wicket. Though it was not an extraordinary performance, it is important to note that in neither of the three matches she was given a chance to open the bowling or bowl with a new ball. Shikha Pandey missed out on the South Africa series and may be that’s why Simran was given the opportunity. With Pandey coming in, it was unlikely that the Delhi cricketer would have got a chance. Despite not getting the opportunity in the middle, there is no doubt that the 21-year would have learnt a lot by being alongside Pandey, Arundhati Reddy, Pooja Vastrakar and Jhulan Goswami. With Australia series next on the cards for the Indian team, it will be interesting to see if Simran retains her place in the squad.
I am a former cricketer having represented Mumbai University at All India University level. I was a part of MCA probables for the U-19 and U-23 age group. I have been an avid cricket writer for the last five years. Currently I am pursuing my Ph.D from IIT Bombay.