Rangaswamy lauds Deepti, Raut after record-breaking stand
Records tumbled in Potchefstroom as India women openers Deepti Sharma and Punam Raut smashed centuries to forge the highest partnership in women's ODIs. Their 320-run opening stand took India to 358 for 2 in the first innings and it was 249 runs too much for a second-string Ireland side, which has now let two different oppositions - South Africa and India - notch up their highest team totals in consecutive games.
In what was the first 300-run stand by any pair in women's ODIs, Deepti, all of 19, clobbered a record 27 fours during her 160-ball 188 - the second-highest individual score in the 50-over format, only bettered by Belinda Clark's unbeaten 229 for Australia.
Speaking about the records achieved by the India women's team, former chairperson of the BCCI women's selection panel Shanta Rangaswamy told ESPNcricinfo: "It's a great achievement for Indian women's cricket. It couldn't have come at a better time. Deepti is young and has a fabulous temperament. Her batting stands apart from most others and I think she has the capability to become one of the best allrounders in world cricket in the years to come."
In the absence of regular opener Smriti Mandhana, who has been recalled to the squad for the Women's World Cup after a four-month layoff, Deepti has carried the mantle of propping up a top order that has traditionally been reliant on Mithali Raj. Deepti's recent run of form came particularly good for India in the Women's World Cup qualifiers in Sri Lanka, where she finished as the tournament's leading run-getter. She scored 253 runs with three fifties in six innings, including a match-winning 71 against South Africa in the final, which helped India complete their highest successful chase in ODIs.
Deepti's opening partner also etched her name in the record books with the feat of being involved in India's highest partnership across all three formats. Rangaswamy underlined Raut's credentials for the longer formats of the game.
"For one-day cricket and Test cricket, Punam is a big asset to the Indian team," Rangaswamy said. "I cannot forget the big centuries she and [MD] Thirush Kamini got in Mysore against South Africa.
"Punam has always been in my scheme of things. Her knock against Australia steered India to victory last year in an ODI. It was crucial in the context of the game. In England, where the ball will swing and bounce more, Punam's presence there will definitely benefit the team's batting."
Having earned a call-up for the quadrangular series on merit of her domestic form, Raut has now forced her way into the squad for the World Cup on the back of unbeaten knocks in two of the three matches so far.
Raut's reputation for being a livewire on the field is likely to have further strengthened her case. In the three matches so far in the quadrangular series, she has played a part in at least one run-out in every game, dismissing set batsmen - South Africa's Mignon du Preez and Ireland's Jennifer Gray, twice - in each instance.
"These girls are excellent fielders," Rangaswamy said. "Deepti excels in close-in fielding; Punam is a very good fielder in the deep. She throws brilliantly and puts in good dives."
India are currently on a 16-match winning streak, and are one win away from equalling Australia's record of 17 consecutive ODI wins. They lead the four-nation tournament with 19 points, followed by South Africa on 15.
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo