S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Offspinning allrounder Sneh Rana has made a comeback to the national side, finding a place in India's 15-member squad for the Commonwealth Games starting July 29 in Birmingham. Rana, who returned to the side in 2021 after a five-year gap, had been rested for the white-ball tour of Sri Lanka that concluded last week.
In another surprise move, the selectors included Taniya Bhatia as one of the two wicketkeepers alongside Yastika Bhatia, with Richa Ghosh left out of the main squad and named as one of the three standby players. Taniya's last T20I appearance was the World Cup final against Australia in Melbourne in March 2020.
Harleen Deol, who was included only for the ODI leg of the Sri Lanka tour, has also found a place in the squad.
Ahead of the tour to Sri Lanka, head coach Ramesh Powar had said that Rana had been rested with a view to managing her workload. "Sneh has been rested for this series and she is in the NCA working on her fitness," he said. "Moving forward, the FTP that we have, there are about 20-25 T20 games and we want our players fresh for all the series. We want to manage the workload of the bowling unit as well as the batting unit. We are trying to balance it out. As of now, she is being rested and is working on her fitness."
Yastika's elevation as the primary wicketkeeper, meanwhile, has been a recent development, with India having earlier preferred Ghosh's skills with the big gloves in addition to her hitting down the order. Ghosh was India's preferred keeper during the ODI World Cup this year, having been one of the stand-out players in the ODI series against New Zealand that preceded the tournament, scoring 146 runs at a strike-rate of 114.06 and an average of 48.66. But she managed only 81 runs in seven innings at the World Cup, getting into double figures only twice.
Ghosh's poor form continued through the Women's T20 Challenge, and then into the tour of Sri Lanka, where Yastika took over keeping duties after the first T20I.
Taniya has not played a competitive game since the Women's T20 Challenge, but played a vital knock during that tournament, scoring 36 off 33 balls and putting on 82 with Harmanpreet Kaur to rescue Supernovas from 18 for 3 against Velocity. Taniya's international record with the bat is modest, however, with her 22 T20I innings so far bringing her an average of 9.22 and a strike rate of 94.31.
Jemimah Rodrigues, who made a successful return to the side in Sri Lanka after missing out on selection for the Women's World Cup earlier this year, kept her place in the Commonwealth Games squad. She scored 72 runs in the three-match T20I series, including a player-of-the-match performance in the first match, where her unbeaten 36 bailed India out of trouble. S Meghana, who batted at No. 3 in each of those matches, also made the squad, though it is as yet unclear if she has been included as a back-up opener or as a No. 3.
Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh and Pooja Vastrakar will form the seam attack, while Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Radha Yadav and Deepti Sharma are the main spin options, with support from Deol's legspin and Rana's offspin.
This year's Commonwealth Games will include women's cricket for the first time, with the eight-team tournament to be played under the T20I format. India are grouped alongside Australia, Pakistan and Barbados in Group A. India begin their campaign with the tournament-opener against Australia on July 29, before taking on Pakistan on July 31.
All matches will be played at Edgbaston in Birmingham.
Squad: Harmanpreet Kaur (capt), Smriti Mandhana (ice-capt), Shafali Verma, S. Meghana, Taniya Sapna Bhatia (wk), Yastika Bhatia (wk), Deepti Sharma, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Pooja Vastrakar, Meghna Singh, Renuka Thakur, Jemimah Rodrigues, Radha Yadav, Harleen Deol, Sneh Rana
Standby: Richa Ghosh, Poonam Yadav, Simran Dil Bahadur