India head coach Ramesh Powar has provided official clarification on the exclusion of Shikha Pandey and Jemimah Rodrigues from India's extended squad for the forthcoming series against New Zealand and the Women's World Cup that follows. Asked about the same ahead of the team's departure for these assignments, he said, "If you don't perform, you don't get your chances."
Addressing a virtual press conference from Mumbai, Powar, when asked if Pandey and Rodrigues' experience would be missed on either assignment, said: "Not really. At the end of it, five selectors, captain, the coach - they have their discussed all the players and we came out with 18 players who can play better in the New Zealand series as well as in the World Cup."
"Every player knows. Whoever is not in the team knows why they are not there," Powar said. "That communication from, say, captain, coach, selectors - it is not a one-time communication; it's been on for a long period of time - at least last six months, I was very clear about the roles. I told them, specifically, what is expected out of them, and end of it this is a competition, a competitive position, so you have to perform. If you don't perform, you don't get your chances.
While the questions at the presser were around batter Rodrigues and swing bowler Pandey, the India squad also excluded experienced batter and ODI veteran Punam Raut. The squad was announced by means of a written media release, with no explanations given as to why the trio was left out. ESPNcricinfo had reported that all three players were fit and available for selection. That none of them were picked even as standbys raised questions, more so given they were part of a boot camp for 20 World Cup hopefuls in Dehradun last month.
Three players with much less experience (quick bowler Renuka Singh, who impressed on her debut in the T20I series on the Australia tour last year and in the domestic 50-over Challenger Trophy that followed, allrounder Simran Bahadur and batter S Meghana - both standout performers in the Challenger Trophy) - instead came into the extended squad of 18, leaving a lot to conjecture. Renuka was part of the main squad, with the other two named as standbys.
Now, Powar said the group picked itself, going by recent performances of each selected player. "So, if you look at it, you cannot pick everyone. There's only 15 [in the primary squad] and then three standbys. And we were looking at the particular things, like fast bowlers, like Meghna [Singh], Renuka - they're doing well and they are going to get their chances in upcoming matches.
"Again, the batting unit is consistent like Yastika [Bhatia], Smriti [Mandhana], Mithali [Raj]. Everyone is consistent so we don't we don't change much. At the end of it seven of us getting together and picking the right team and backing the players, that matters."
Bhatia made such a strong impression down under that she has effectively replaced Jemimah Rodrigues in the team. Rodrigues was dropped from the playing XI in the first ODI against England in July and then, having failed to make an impression in the next two matches, was not considered to start in the Australia ODIs.
In the six ODIs that she played in 2021, Raut, 32, accumulated 295 runs, including a hundred, at an average of 73.75, but her historically low career strike rate of 58.26 has seen her being outperformed by younger, more aggressive batters. She has publicly expressed her disappointment at the World Cup snub.