Ahead of the team selection for the England tour that kick starts on June 16, Boria Majumdar, a reputed Indian sports journalist, author, and academician, came out in front raising pointed questions to the Neetu David-led selection committee that picked the team for South Africa series, which the Women in Blue lost dearly.
In a YouTube video for the Sports Today channel, Majumdar, with no hesitation questioned the dropping of two players, who played a pivotal role in India’s road to the final in the last year’s World T20. Shikha Pandey and Taniya Bhatia were the two players who did not find a place in the squad that played a home series against South Africa in March this year after a long break of almost 12 months.
With respect to Shikha Pandey, the selection committee led by Neetu David, stated that the all-rounder had put on weight and was not fit to play for India. Conversely, the truth is that Pandey had actually lost seven kilos and was fit to play.
On the other hand, wicket-keeper bat Taniya Bhatia missed out because she had not scored too many runs in the World T20 played last year in Australia, according to the selection committee which also has former India players like Arati Vaidya, Mithu Mukherjee, Renu Margrate, and V Kalpana. The fact of the matter is Bhatia’s batting position was chopped and changed in almost every game, giving her no stability. She also opened in one of the matches. From the perspective of the number of runs scored, India’s star batters like Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur also had an ordinary World Cup, but they were not dropped for the South Africa series. Though Bhatia missed out on scoring runs, she had a wonderful outing behind the stumps. In the very first match itself which India played against Australia, Bhatia accounted for four dismissals. Had it not been done, India’s chances against the World Champions would have looked bleak.
The two players who were out of turn given their India caps were Karnataka’s C Prathyusha and Monica Patel. Both these players play for Falcon Club in Bangalore, which is run by a former Indian women cricketer. Their performance in the South Africa series clearly showed that they were prematurely thrown into international cricket. Their selection ahead of the likes of Shikha Pandey, Taniya Bhatia, and Devika Vaidya had raised many eyebrows. Looking at the domestic performances, Vaidya is a far better player than Prathyusha. Vaidya made her India debut in 2014 and was around till 2018 before she was plagued with injuries. There is no doubt that the Maharashtra player would have been a better pick.
Apart from Pandey and Bhatia, India’s young sensation Shafali Verma was not picked up for the ODI series. The 17-year old opening bat played the T20I series but her omission from the 50-over format did not go down too well with the women’s cricket connoisseurs. The selection committee stated that Shafali was not a good fielder and so she was not given a place in the ODI side. Given the fact that T20Is actually require better fielders than ODIs, her inclusion in the shortest format and not in the 50-over scheme of things has definitely left people bamboozled. It is important to note that Shafali Verma is being considered by Australia for WBBL and England for the Hundred, but unfortunately, she cannot find a place in India’s ODI side.
Lastly, India’s head coach WV Raman has been replaced by Ramesh Powar, who was the head coach of Women in Blue between August and November 2018. Powar was axed due to fallout with Mithali Raj during the World T20 in 2018. Raj was controversially left out of the side for the semi-final against England, which the team lost by eight wickets. Also, there were talks about things not being good between Harmanpreet Kaur and Mithali Raj during Powar’s stint as the head coach. Powar was replaced by Raman in December 2018. Under Raman, India reached the finals of the World T20 last year. The team was developing well under him. Now with Powar back again as the head coach of the women’s team after being shown the door once, it will be interesting to see how things work out between him and India ODI captain Mithali Raj, with all eyes on the 2022 World Cup in New Zealand.
Whatever that has happened over the last couple of months or so in Indian women’s cricket, these are not good signs. The selection committee has certainly come under the scanner after they made some shocking decisions ahead of the South Africa series in March. Now with the England series coming up next month, will the selection committee rectify its mistakes or will it continue to do injustice to talented players?
The article is an attempt to transcribe Boria Majumdar’s video published on May 14, 2021.
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.