India vs SA T20Is – India’s batting reshuffle, and a couple of successful comebacks

The major takeaways for India from their T20I series against South Africa in Chennai

Jemimah Rodrigues made a half-century at No. 5 in the first T20I  BCCI

The shared T20I series at home against South Africa, on the back of the victory in Bangladesh, has given India several positives to think about ahead of two major upcoming tournaments – the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka later in July and the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh this October. Here are the major takeaways from India’s most recent performance:

India’s batting puzzle

Jemimah Rodrigues used to be India’s No.3 in T20Is until her recent back injury gave others an opportunity.

Returning to India’s T20I squad after two years, D Hemalatha was promoted to No. 3 in the T20Is in Bangladesh following a successful WPL season. She scored 109 runs in four matches at an impressive strike rate of 141.55. She made only 14 off 17 balls in the first T20I against South Africa, though, and was left out of the next two games because Richa Ghosh was out with concussion and India needed S Sajana‘s power-hitting in the middle order. Sajana, however, did get a chance to bat in the series.

After the third T20I, India’s vice-captain Smriti Mandhana said playing Hemalatha at No. 3 was a “calculated move”, which means Rodrigues could remain at No. 5, the position she batted at in the first T20I against South Africa. Rodrigues displayed great adaptability down the order, scoring an unbeaten 53 off 30 balls.

In this scenario, Sajana is likely to be the back-up – either as No. 3 or as finisher. Similar to Hemalatha, she has a strong bottom-hand game and can attack spin to score quickly. Both of them also offer the team an over or two of offspin.

All this leaves Yastika Bhatia in limbo. She was the No. 3 in the first T20I in Bangladesh, and scored 36 off 29 balls, before a niggle ruled her out of the rest of the series, giving Hemalatha her opportunity. The seriousness of Bhatia’s injury is unknown but if she recovers in time for the T20 World Cup, she might be picked as a back-up keeper to Ghosh and not necessarily be in the starting XI.

In such a scenario, Mandhana may be the only left-hand batter in the top six.

Shreyanka Patil is one of two candidates for the third spinner’s spot  BCCI

Third spinner – Asha or Shreyanka?

Left-arm spinner Radha Yadav‘s recent rise means she and offspinner Deepti Sharma are India’s first two choices in the spin department. She played all eight T20Is since her return in Bangladesh, taking 16 wickets with an economy of 5.86 per over. Her 3 for 6 helped India level the T20I series against South Africa in Chennai.

Radha’s performance has left legspinner Asha Sobhana and offspinner Shreyanka Patil competing for the third spinner’s spot. Patil played five out of eight games in the last two series and Asha three. In the T20Is against South Africa, Patil took 1 for 19 and 1 for 37 in her two appearances, while Asha had figures of 0 for 39 in her only game. India could pick just one of them for the two major tournaments, based on whether they want Patil’s batting depth or a wristspinner depending on the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses.

Reddy’s successful return

Allrounder Arundhati Reddy made a promising return to T20Is and is shaping up as a reliable third-seamer option after Pooja Vastrakar and Renuka Singh. Coming back stronger and calmer after three years, Reddy was expensive in the washed-out second T20I against South Africa when Renuka was rested. However, she rectified her line and length to bounce back with 1 for 14 in three overs to help India level the series. Her excellent fielding makes her a compelling all-round package.

India’s fielding in the spotlight

“Fielding and fitness are the cornerstone.” Amol Muzumdar has emphasized the importance of these two aspects since taking over as India’s head coach last October. They started poorly against South Africa, dropping four catches in the first T20I. However, they improved in the next two games, taking 11 catches and dropping two. As they gear up for two global events in the next couple of months, this is one discipline to watch out for.

Srinidhi Ramanujam is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo

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