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Cricket news - Focus on Mithali Raj's role ahead of New Zealand T20Is

India had a good time in the ODI series versus New Zealand, winning the series 2-1

When they last played a T20I, there was disappointment followed by a controversy that rocked Indian women's cricket. A semifinal exit against England gave rise to plenty of questions, the chief of which was the role of Mithali Raj in India's T20 team. A batter who likes to take her time at the crease wasn't a preferred option for India at the top of the order and that led to ego clashes between Raj and former coach Ramesh Powar, with T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur and vice captain Smriti Mandhana siding with the former India spinner.

While that topic had taken a backseat in recent weeks, it's back in focus with India set to take on New Zealand in three T20Is. With WV Raman handed the responsibility, how will he define Raj's role - especially with the T20 WC a year away?

While the focus will be on how the team gels together in the shortest format after the public fallout between two of its senior players, Raj has insisted several times that being in a professional setup, the players understand the larger goal of the team and are over their personal differences. They did manage to showcase that professionalism during the 2-1 ODI series victory against New Zealand and will be hoping to continue in the same vein during the T20I series.

The Indian batters were all in good form in the ODIs, with Mandhana leading the way, but the last game served as a reality check after they were skittled out for a sub-par total and went on to lose the game by a big margin. While the Indians will be keen to prove that their performance in the final ODI was an aberration, New Zealand will be buoyed by the victory and will be looking to extend that momentum in the T20Is which are all double-headers with the men's teams playing soon after them.

When: Wednesday, February 6 at 4:00 PM Local time (8:30 AM IST)

Where: Westpac Stadium, Wellington

What to expect:In the previous ODI between the New Zealand and Indian men's sides played at this venue, the hosts failed to reach a target of 253 on a two-paced wicket. Partly cloudy and windy conditions will welcome the teams at the Westpac stadium.

Team news:

New Zealand: The hosts recalled Frances Mackay after a five-year absence while also including uncapped players Caitlin Gurrey and Rosemary Mair in the 13-member squad. "We've had to draw a line in the sand after our performance at the T20 WC. We need to reward and give opportunities to players in form," New Zealand coach Haidie Tiffen had said, hinting at debut opportunities during the series.

India: Shikha Pandey, who was missing from the T20 WC squad, has been recalled to the Indian team. The visitors also have the uncapped Priya Puniya - a 22-year-old opener from Delhi - in their squad of 15. It remains to be seen if she debuts straightaway.

Did you know?

- Suzie Bates and Harmanpreet Kaur scored 670 and 663 runs respectively in T20Is in 2018 - the most scored by anyone in a calendar year in Women's T20Is.

- Harmanpreet is 114 runs short of the 2000 milestone in T20Is. Only Mithali Raj has scored more than 2000 runs in T20Is for India.

- Suzie Bates has been dismissed without scoring 10 times in her T20I career. Another duck will put her jointly on top with Deandra Dottin for most ducks in T20Is.


New Zealand: Amy Satterthwaite (c), Suzie Bates, Bernadine Bezuidenhout (wk), Sophie Devine, Hayley Jensen, Caitlin Gurrey, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Frances Mackay, Katey Martin, Rosemary Mair, Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu.

India: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana, Mithali Raj, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav, Anuja Patil, Ekta Bisht, Dayalan Hemalatha, Mansi Joshi, Arundhati Reddy, Shikha Pandey, Priya Punia.

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