Uncapped Baroda allrounder Radha Yadav and offspinner Anuja Patil, who is regarded as a T20 specialist, have been named in India women's squad for the T20I series against South Africa, which follows the ODI series. The team will be led by Harmanpreet Kaur with Smriti Mandhana serving as her deputy. This will be India's first T20I assignment since the Asia Cup in December 2016 in Thailand, where they clinched the title.
Yadav, the 17-year old the left-arm spin bowling allrounder, has replaced fellow left-armer Ekta Bisht, while Sushma Verma, the first-choice wicketkeeper across formats, has been dropped in favour of Nuzhat Parween. Batsmen Punam Raut and Mona Meshram have also been left out of the 15-member squad. Patil, the Maharashtra allrounder, last played in an international game in the Asia Cup.
Yadav, who had moved from Kandivali to Baroda at age 15 to further her cricketing aspirations under the tulelage of coach Praful Naik, is currently playing in the Super League stage of the Senior Women's T20 League in Mumbai. She said the joy of her selection news was multiplied by the coincidence of her getting the call-up in the city of her birth, while playing for the team that has helped her make it to the national reckoning.
"I had little idea the squad was to be named today as we had a game against Delhi," Yadav told ESPNcricinfo. "When I got to learn of the news from our Baroda women's selector Rajkuvardevi Gaekwad, I had just got home [in Kandivali, where her parents live], after winning the match. But I couldn't hold the excitement back, and rushed back to the Sachin Tendulkar Gymkhana, where my father had been watching the Maharashtra-Goa game.
"When I couldn't make it to the squad for the one-dayers, my family seemed to have been the only ones heartbroken. I wasn't too deterred by the non-selection, to be honest. But now that I've been picked for the T20Is, I am happy that my parents and my coach Praful Sir have reasons to smile."
Both Yadav and Patil had been part of the India A T20 series against Bangladesh A and subsequently turned out for India Blue and India Green respectively in the Challenger Trophy, the domestic 50-over tournament in which India Blue emerged triumphant. Considered an excellent fielder in addition to her all-round skills, Yadav gushed at the prospect of reuniting with fellow 17-year old and long-time friend Jemimah Rodrigues and getting to pick the brains of the India T20I captain.
"It would be great if both Jemimah and I end up playing in the XI in T20s, given our journeys have been linked almost since we stepped into our teens," she said. "I do not have any such cricketing idols, but I look up to Harry di [Harmanpreet] for her style of play, you know the aggression and the quick-scoring abilities. If I am to point out one thing I'd be most looking forward to, apart from, of course, playing cricket for India, I'd say it would be sharing the dressing room with Harry di and getting to understand her game from close quarters."
Patil, who has played 24 T20Is since debuting in 2012, also spoke of Harmanpreet as a major influence, whose example kept her motivated even when she had seemingly fallen off the selectors' radar. "I played my last international game under Harmanpreet's captaincy, in the Asia Cup final; the disappointment of not having being able to earn an ODI debut is real, but watching Harmanpreet go about her business even in the face of all the injuries she has had to contend with has often made my insecurities pale before her resilience," Patil said. "For now, I'm focused on contributing to the team in all departments and look forward to resuming my international career after over a one-year hiatus. If I perform well in the T20Is, who knows, an ODI call-up in the home series [against Australia and England] may not be too far away."