The Indian women’s cricket team will face a test by fire when it makes its day-night Test debut against Australia in the one-off game beginning on Thursday in Gold Coast, after gaining significant confidence with a fighting performance in one-dayers. With the third ODI held on Sunday and the following day being a rest day, the Mithali Raj-led squad has got only two practise sessions in the lead up to the landmark Test. The visitors lost 1-2 in the shorter format series. The team has no idea how the gleaming pink ball will perform during the game at Metricon Stadium.
Australia, who played their lone day-night Test in November 2017, also has limited experience, but their potent pace attack will be eager to wreak havoc on the greenish pitch.
India performed admirably in their first Test match in seven years, drawing with England in June, but players and experts believe the skiddy pink-ball will present a far more difficult challenge for the visitors.
India and Australia last played a Test match in 2006, with only Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami from both sides appearing in that match.
“I would call it a trial by fire for the Indians. The players have hardly played with red ball in the last three four years. Day-night Test is a completely different ball game and a much tougher challenge,” said former India captain and BCCI Apex Council member Shantha Rangaswamy.
“Though Australia have more Test experience than India of late, their players also haven’t played a lot in the whites.
Some of their key players are missing and India showed (in ODIs) that Australia are beatable,” she added.
Shantha, who led India to their first Test victory in 1976, praised the BCCI for resuming women’s Test cricket and expressed hope that two-day red-ball cricket will return to local cricket.
Harmanpreet Kaur’s fitness for the game is still in question, despite a hit in the nets on the night of the competition.
Yastika Bhatia, a rookie hitter, and Meghna Singh, a bowler, both made strong ODI debuts and could be granted their first Test caps.
The anticipated pace trio is veteran Jhulan Goswami, Meghna, and Pooja Vastrakar. Along with Deepti Sharma, spinner Sneh Rana is expected to be the other all-rounder in the side.
Taniya Bhatia, who was beaten by Richa Ghosh in the ODI series, is anticipated to return behind the stumps.
Punam Raut, who played in the England Test but has been dropped from the ODI squad, is anticipated to play. With vice-captain Rachael Haynes ruled out owing to a hamstring injury, Australia has been dealt a setback ahead of the game.
In her place, skipper Meg Lanning said the team will select either a fast bowling all-rounder or a specialist hitter. Annabel Sutherland, who shone in the One-Day Internationals, is set to make her debut.
“It will depend a little bit on the wicket. There is a green tinge there, and that potentially brings some of our pace-bowling all-rounders into the frame.
“We just need to decide whether we want to go with the specific batter position or with the all-rounder position so we’ll make the call after training today,” said Lanning.
After India’s 26-match winning streak came to an end in the third ODI, Australia will be aiming for perfection. Their inexperienced pace attack is more than capable of troubling the Indian hitters with the pink-ball.
Australia squad: Meg Lanning (c), Darcie Brown, Maitlan Brown, Stella Campbell, Nicola Carey, Hannah Darlington, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Georgia Redmayne, Molly Strano, Annabel Sutherland, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham.
India squad: Mithali Raj (c), Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Punam Raut, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Sneh Rana, Yastika Bhatia, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Shikha Pandey, Jhulan Goswami, Meghna Singh, Pooja Vastrakar, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Richa Ghosh, Ekta Bisht.