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‘2021 Was Her Best Year & She Wasn’t Picked’: Former Coach Says Punam Raut Deserved a Place in WC Squad

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India will look at the ICC Women’s World Cup to be held in New Zealand in March –April on an optimistic note. To start with, it will play Pakistan against which it enjoys a ten-zero record in one-day internationals with the first match played in Karachi in December 2005 and the tenth match at Derby in the World Cup match of July 2017.

All wins have been convincing by runs or by wickets. So the team led by Mithali Raj (who is in her 40th year and has led India previously in three World Cups) will face its Asian rival taking all the confidence of the past, especially so because it has beaten them by 10 wickets, six wickets and 95 runs in three World Cup matches at Bowral, Australia in 2009, at Cuttack in 2013 and at Derby four years ago.

India will play Pakistan at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui, Tauranga on March 6. Another aspect that will encourage the Indian team is that it has played one match at the Bay Oval and beat the home team New Zealand by eight wickets.

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India’s other league matches are against New Zealand (March 10) and the West Indies (March 12) at the Seddon Park, Hamilton, England (March 16) at the Bay Oval, Australia (March 19) at the Eden Park, Auckland, Bangladesh (March 22) at Seddon Park and South Africa (March 27) at the Hagley Oval, Christchurch. While India has lost to Australia, New Zealand, England, South Africa, West Indies, it has not lost to Bangladesh.

As always India is regarded as one of the favourites, more so in recent times because of the individual skill of stroke players like Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur and the collective ambition of the team to excel and surpass itself in bilateral series and ICC events.

India has won 34 of the 63 World Cup matches it has played from 1978, not a spectacular record to speak of with a winning percentage of 53.97, but the fact it showed up with some big displays in the 2017 competition when it lost to England in the final at Lord’s by nine runs and Harmanpreet’s game-changing 115-ball unbeaten 171 with 20 x 4s and 7 x 6s, has changed the way how the other handful of favourites view it as a potential World Cup winner in New Zealand.

The BCCI’s Women’s Selection Committee have chosen the Indian team and standbys for the ICC Event and also the preceding white-ball series against New Zealand comprising one Twenty20 international and five limited over matches. Changes in the squad can be made till February 24.

No sooner than the BCCI announced the team, a star of the previous World Cup, Punam Raut, expressed her disappointment through her twitter handle @raut_punam saying: ‘’Having been considered amongst the experienced batter and a consistent run-scorer for India, I’m extremely disappointed at not being a part of the World Cup squad. In 2021, I averaged 73.75, scoring 295 runs, which included a hundred and two half-centuries in the six ODI games that I played. It is very disheartening to be continuously left out even after performing. Having said that, I would like to extend my best wishes to all the players who will be representing India.”

The Mumbai-based Punam has played three World Cups (one match in 2009, four in 2013 and nine in 2017) and has scored 466 runs, most of it (381 in 2017 at 42.33). She also scored a century (106 against Australia at Bristol). Overall, she has played 73 matches, scored 2299 runs with 3 x 100s and 15 x 50s at 34.83 and a strike rate of 58.26.

Punam has scored 1657 runs as an opener in 54 innings and 610 at No. 3 in 17 innings. She has every reason to be disappointed because 2021 was her best in international cricket, scoring 298 runs off 428 balls for a scoring rate of 4.14 an over with one century and two half centuries. Her previous best was in 2017 when she scored 653 runs off 914 balls for a scoring rate 4.29 an over. Punam is also India’s third highest run getter since January 2019 (14 matches, 602 runs).

Former India coach Tushar Arothe believes that India needs to put runs on the board. “They have to post 250/260 runs consistently. But I think India will start well against Pakistan. No match in the World Cup will be easy and so India has to compete,’’ said while talking about India’s chances in New Zealand.

Arothe felt that Punam deserved a place in the team. “

“2021 was her best year, and she has not been picked. I feel sorry for her. She has been one of India’s better players in the 50 over format. She has been consistent, not even Harman. Even in the 2017 World Cup she did very well. They should have considered Punam as an opener. They should have selected Jemima (Rodrigues) too. She did not get runs in the last four or five one dayers. Why is this (lack of form) applied only to Jemima, why not for others? Jemima is a fantastic player. She is always in the game; she saves five to ten runs in every match. She had a good outing in The Hundred in England (and Women’s BBL in Australia. One cannot judge a player of Jemima’ calibre on the basis of five one dayers (22 runs against South Africa and England). And honestly speaking, Shikha Pandey (55 matches, 75 wickets at 21.92) too should have been there. Other than Jhulan Goswami, Shikha is very experienced. This is a World Cup, and she should have been picked.”

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Touching upon the preparation for the World Cup, Arothe said: “The BCCI has been doing a fantastic work, The team went to England last year for a full series and to Australia. Now the team will five ODI matches against New Zealand before the competition starts in March. And most of them played in The Hundred and women’s Big Bash.’’

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