Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) [India], March 5 (ANI): Eyebrows were raised when Shikha Pandey wasn't picked in the squad for the South Africa series and India women's ODI vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur on Friday clarified that the all-rounder has been rested in order to test the bench strength of the hosts.
Shikha has been India's leading wicket-taker in ODIs since her debut in August 2014 and along with her, Ekta Bisht, Anuja Patil, Veda Krishnamurthy, and Taniya Bhatia also missed the bus for the South Africa series.
Harmanpreet admitted it was a tough call to rest some of the key players but asserted that it was necessary to do so with an eye on the next two years. The vice-captain said the South Africa series will lay the platform to set up a perfect combination before the megaevents. The ICC Women's Cricket World Cup originally scheduled for early 2021 has been pushed back by a year due to a coronavirus pandemic while the T20 World Cup will be held in 2023.
"It was a tough call, but sometimes you need to give chance to other players also. She is not dropped, we are just giving rest to few players and trying out some other players. I know we are playing after a long time we wanted to go with the same combination but at the same time when you didn't play too much cricket, you need to give chance to other players also.
"After this tournament, we will be able to set up a great combination of players as in the next two or three years we have a lot of cricket coming up. And that's a reason we are giving chances to few other players," said Harmanpreet while replying to a query from ANI during a virtual press conference.
The Indian women cricketers last played during the Women's T20 Challenge in November 2020 while their last international match was on March 8, 2020, when they faced Australia in the T20 World Cup final. C. Pratyusha, Yastika Bhatia, Ayushi Soni, Swetha Verma, Monica Patel, and Simran Dil Bahadur have earned their maiden call-ups.
Harmanpreet said the side will want to gain as much as they can from the upcoming South Africa series. The vice-captain is also looking forward to enjoying the company of the young guns.
"Yes, the break was too long but sometimes things are under not your control. So we are going to make sure that we utilise the series for good. The next few years are important for us so we have to make sure that we are ready with the best combination," said Harmanpreet.
"It feels good when there are new players on your side. You get a lot of energy from the young guns as there is nothing above playing for the country. We just want to improve as a team," she added.
India and South Africa will lock horns in a five-match ODI series before they face each other in three T20Is in March. The ODI series will begin from March 7 while the T20I series will be played from March 20 at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow. (ANI)