India women bank on spin arsenal, batting depth

'Powar has picked the traits of the players very quickly' - Veda Krishnamurthy (2:32)

The senior India middle-order batsman spoke highly of new head coach Ramesh Powar (2:32)

Squad list

Harmanpreet Kaur (capt), Smriti Mandhana (vice-capt), Mithali Raj, Jemimah Rodrigues, Veda Krishnamurthy, Deepti Sharma, Tanya Bhatia (wk), Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav, Anuja Patil, Ekta Bisht, D Hemalatha, Mansi Joshi, Pooja Vastrakar, Arundhati Reddy

World T20 pedigree

Books documenting the country's rich women's cricket history, biopics of two legends, Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, who have been tagged as 'MilJhul' in the same breath as #MisYou (Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan), increased air time and TV ads - it's all happening for the India women's team. They are finally a brand thanks to their magnificent showing at the World Cup last year. Can they now sustain their surge in the World T20?

India made the semi-finals of the first two editions in 2009 and 2010, but have little to show since. In 2012, they finished winless in the group stage. In 2014, they managed two wins in four games but didn't qualify because of an inferior net run-rate. In 2016, they managed a solitary win against Bangladesh at home.

Until January 2016, India were at best a middling T20I side. It needed their first-ever series win in Australia to inject self-belief. Since then, they have had sporadic individual brilliance, but have not been able to beat the top sides regularly in T20Is. Infusion of youth could give their dreams shape this time.

Recent T20I form

India thumped Sri Lanka 4-0 in an away series, but that shouldn't mask their disappointing run at the Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur, where they lost twice to Bangladesh, including in the final. However, they've had a new coach in Ramesh Powar, the former India offspinner, who brings with him no baggage and plenty of experience.

India were scheduled to play defending champions West Indies in a three-match series, but was eventually called off because of logistical reasons. India have had to make do with a week-long camp followed by a full series in Mumbai against Australia A. They whitewashed the young Australian side 3-0 before heading to the Caribbean, where they tuned up with a win over West Indies in a warm-up fixture, and followed that by beating England by 11 runs in their second warm-up game.

The captain and coach

Harmanpreet Kaur enjoys a sense of control when her spinners are in operation, much like Virat Kohli does when Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal are bowling in tandem. During the T20Is earlier this year against Australia, her go-to spinner Poonam Yadav lacked a Plan B after coming under sustained attack. At the time, Harmanpreet had Jhulan Goswami's experience to fall back on. Now with Jhulan having retired from T20Is, the combined experience of her three fast bowlers - Arundhati Reddy, Pooja Vastrakar and Mansi Joshi - is just 18 T20Is. How will Harmanpreet juggle her bowling resources?

With the batting, though, there has been a clear plan: empower young players and give them ample opportunities. Taniya Bhatia and Rodrigues have been the biggest beneficiaries. Harmanpreet will want that to continue, to allow Mithali Raj, herself and Smriti Mandhana some cushion.

This will be the biggest test of Ramesh Powar's interim stint yet. He is the first male Test cricketer since Lala Amarnath in the 1970s to be the head coach of the India women's team. He's coached Mumbai Under-23s, had stints as a spin bowling coach in Australia - an assignment facilitated by Greg Chappell - following completion of Level-3 coaching certification in the country. He took over in July, after Tushar Arothe's resignation following a fallout with the senior players, and has quickly fostered the camaraderie many senior players felt was missing earlier.

Best players

Smriti Mandhana is a far superior ball-striker than she was two years ago. Her batting has developed a Hayden-esque brutality without compromising on her shot selection or shape. This hasn't come about overnight. Failures at the Big Bash League and a lean run following her World Cup campaign elicited a lot of soul searching, and she's come away rejuvenated. The improvements are a a result of a slightly open stance, changed grip, and old-fashioned practice against the heavy TAP conditioning balls from Australia that has helped raise her power game. There's an air of intimidation about her batting that has lent a new dimension to the team.

Where will they finish

Like it was at the World Cup, their clash against New Zealand could determine which way their campaign is headed. On paper, India are more superior than Pakistan and Ireland. Should they beat them, wins in one of the remaining games will carry them into the semi-finals. They have enough spin arsenal to surprise one of the two powerhouses and make the final four.