Jhulan Goswami will lead India's 15-member squad at the Women's World Cup in Australia in March 2009. The selectors have made three changes to the squad that lost all five ODIs and a Twenty20 international in Australia in October-November 2008.
Batsman Jaya Sharma and offspinners Nooshin Al Khadeer and Seema Pujare have been been left out, with Poonam Raut, Harpreet Kaur and Sravanthi Naidu taking their places. Medium-pacer Amita Sharma will be Goswami's deputy for the tournament, which will be held in New South Wales from March 7 to 22.
Shubhangi Kulkarni, the convenor of the BCCI's women's selection committee, said fielding skills had been kept in mind when picking the squad. "The three youngsters, Kaur, Naidu and Raut are good all-round players. The selectors have kept their eye on Kaur since last year, when she played the Challengers and showed promise," she said. "Naidu was in the Indian squad four years ago when she was 17. Raut is a promising offspinner and opening batsman, which is an area where we have had problems for a while."
Jaya and Al Khadeer had played all eight games at the last World Cup in South Africa, where India lost the final to Australia. Jaya scored 68 runs in the tournament and failed to perform on the recent tours of England and Australia, making 75 runs in eight innings. Al Khadeer, who has 99 wickets from 75 ODIs, had made a comeback for the tour of Australia after being overlooked for England and the Asia Cup last year, but is out again after taking three wickets in four games at an economy-rate of 5.51. However she was India's leading wicket-taker in the series.
Besides Goswami and Amita, the others in this team who were part of India's squad at the previous World Cup are Anjum Chopra, Rumeli Dhar and Mithali Raj.
India have been drawn in the same group as England, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, and would expect to make it to the Super Six stage - the top three sides go through. They have not had the best of lead-ups to the tournament: they have not won an international game in England and Australia after their emphatic display in the Women's Asia Cup in May 2008.
Goswami said the 5-0 defeat in Australia was an "eye opener", and agreed that the fielding needed improvement.
" We had a good camp at NCA last week with inputs from the likes of Dav Whatmore," Goswami told PTI. "There were a few glitches in our fielding but we have worked a lot on that and there will be another camp in Mumbai before we leave for Australia on March 1. It's a big responsibility and I will give my best. I am confident that we will do well and at least be in the final."
Jhulan Goswami (capt), Amita Sharma, Mithali Raj, Rumeli Dhar, Priyanka Roy, Thirush Kamini, Poonam Raut, Harpreet Kaur, Anjum Chopra, Sulakshana Naik (wk), Anagha Deshpande (wk), Reema Malhotra, Snehal Pradhan, Gouher Sultana, Sravanthi Naidu.