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Cricket news - To play Mithali Raj or not - that is the question

Mithali Raj was left out of the first two T20s as India opted to take the aggressive route at the top of the order

India stand coloured up with hesitation. They left out Mithali Raj to try and build a team for the future, which isn't a bad idea considering the veteran is still around in the dressing room to groom youngsters, but the leadership group is in a fix now after two back to back defeats, that's seen India's middle-order crumble to powder and lose the Twenty20 International series. What do they do -- bring Mithali back and confess India's lack of readiness for life beyond Mithali or stick to the gutsy call of leaving her out, now that the series is lost already?

It's a pick between pride and ego. And it's complicated.

Though India put up a commendable fight in the second T20I in Auckland, where New Zealand scraped to a last-ball series-sealing win, it was more a case of the bowlers making up for the batting bloopers earlier in the day. If India lost nine wickets for 34 runs while chasing in Wellington, they just had only two batters in double-digits while setting a target in Auckland, and the multi-dimensionality of the losses should worry Harmanpreet Kaur, whose lack of form has made things worse.

It's a good time to be in the New Zealand camp. With the series won, they now seek a total whitewash that may go a long way in making up for a home ODI series loss to India a few days ago. It's not entirely compensatory but it's something, especially after how India ran them ragged at the T20 WC recently.

When: Sunday, February 10 at 8:30 AM IST / 03:00 AM GMT / 04:00 PM LOCAL

Where: Seddon Park, Hamilton

What to expect: A high of 28 degrees is expected, with no rain set to be around. It hasn't been a high-scoring series so far but that can change in Hamilton, where a flat pitch and short boundaries, albeit bigger than Eden Park's, await the teams.


New Zealand

The hosts are unlikely to change the winning combination barring an injury.

Probable XI: Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, Caitlin Gurrey, Amy Satterthwaite(c), Katey Martin(w), Anna Peterson, Leigh Kasperek, Hannah Rowe, Amelia Kerr, Lea Tahuhu, Rosemary Mair


Arundhati Reddy, Deepti Sharma and Radha Yadav were all superb with the ball in Auckland, and are players to watch out in the third T20I too. Whether Mithali comes in for Dayalan Hemalatha (scores of 2* and 3 in the series so far) or Priya Punia (4 and 4) is anyone's guess; whether Mithali plays at all is, well, too.

Mansi Joshi was expensive in the last game, and failed to defend nine runs in the final over after Deepti Sharma had beautifully set it up with a four-run 19th over, and India might look to replace her with Shikha Pandey.

Probable XI: Priya Punia, Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Harmanpreet Kaur(c), Dayalan Hemalatha/Mithali Raj, Arundhati Reddy, Mansi Joshi, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia(w), Radha Yadav, Poonam Yadav

What they said

"We lost to India in the T20 WC and that really hurt a lot of us, and we just want to show that we can play some really positive cricket and consistently" - Suzie Bates, who scored 62 off 52 in Auckland.

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