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06.02.2019  Author: C.NAMASIVAYAM

Women's cricket in India has come a long way with broadcasters and sponsors showing a lot more interest recently. India's appearance in the final of the Women's World Cup in 2017 sparked interest in the team despite them losing to England.

The ICC too has noticed. During the current tour of New Zealand, every T20I match involving the men's teams will be preceded by a clash between the the women's teams on the same day at the same venue.

It would only be appropriate to recognise the popularity of women's cricket and here's what a combined team would look like based on the performances of the players in the ODI series against New Zealand. The men had won 4-1, while the women beat the hosts 2-1.

1) Rohit Sharma

Rohit Sharma played two match-winning half-centuries, in the second and third ODIs, as he continued in good form in ODIs. Though he could not score consistently in the series as the Indian lineup collapsed to some good swing bowling from New Zealand, he still managed to score when it mattered and the series was done by then.

2) Smriti Mandhana

Smriti Mandhana is currently on top of the ODI rankings. She has been outstanding for India in her last 10 innings, scoring 567 runs in seven completed innings at an average of 81. In New Zealand, Mandhana scored 105 and 90* in the first two ODIs and was a significant factor in India winning both the matches and the series.

In the second match, she scored 90 off 83 balls with 13 fours and 1 six. Chasing 162 to win, India were reduced to 15 for 2 when Mithali Raj joined Mandhana. Though the captain was slow at start, taking 62 balls to reach 16, Mandhana kept the scoreboard ticking with 42 off 45 balls.

A left-hander, she would be the ideal opening partner for Rohit, who can also take time to settle in before opening up

3) Virat Kohli (captain)

Though it might look like Kohli hasn't scored too many in the three matches that he played against New Zealand, his contributions were 45,43 & 60. That's because we have come to expect the extraordinary from him every time. Kohli has already crossed the 300-run mark in ODIs in the first month of the calendar year. He also remains the best No 3 in the world and also captains this team of combined players.

4) Mithali Raj (vice-captain)

Mithali Raj made her ODI debut way back in 1999 when not even one of the players in the current men's team had won their first cap. Her ODI career stats are as follows: 200 matches, 6,622 runs at an average of 51.33 with seven centuries and 52 half-centuries.

Raj is the first woman to play 200 ODIs and is also the highest scorer in the format. In New Zealand, Raj came to India's rescue once again in the second ODI. India had lost two quick wickets early on, but she kept her cool to see the chase through with Mandhana.

Raj would be the ideal No 4, more so when India lose quick wickets. She is also the vice-captain of this team

5) Harmanpreet Kaur

Harmanpreet Kaur is similar to MS Dhoni in more than one way. Apart from sharing his jersey number, Kaur and Dhoni are both street-smart, both pack a punch with their shots and both are the designated finishers for their teams.

Her innings of 171* against Australia in the semi-final of the 2017 Worlld Cup was unforgettable. She was unstoppable as she hammered 171 off 115 balls with 20 fours and 7 sixes and the innings floored the defending champions. Even in the finals against England, India were with a chance as long as Kaur was at the crease. When she got out for 51, it was disaster for India. In New Zealand, Kaur made 24 in the only match that she got an opportunity to bat. She can also play the role of a batting all-rounder in this team.

6) MS Dhoni (wicketkeeper)

If there is a wicketkeeper in the world now who could win matches from behind the stumps, it's Dhoni. Consider the run out of New Zealand batsman Jimmy Neesham. He was set on 44 off 32 balls and with 176 on board in the 37th over, a target of 253 looked attainable. In the second ball of the over, Neesham tried to steal a single while the Indians were appealing for an LBW decision. Dhoni though seized that opportunity to catch the batsman short of his crease. That was the seventh wicket to fall and the win didn't take much long after.

Dhoni has also found his rhythm with the bat on the tour of Australia and New Zealand after much criticism about his strike-rate. He is this team's wicketkeeper

7) Hardik Pandya

Hardik Pandya played in only three of the five matches in the New Zealand series. In his comeback match at Mount Maunganui, he completed his bowling quota of 10 overs and took 2 for 45. However, it was in the last ODI at Wellington that Pandya made a big difference, but with the bat. He clobbered 45 runs off 22 balls, which was the difference between the two teams. While bowling, he also got the prize wicket of Ross Taylor. He can be a seaming all-rounder in this team

8) Jhulan Goswami

Jhulan Goswami is a veteran who started her career in 2002 and has so far played in 174 ODIs and taken 210 wickets. She is also the highest wicket taker in the format, with a superb economy rate of 3.25 in ODIs. In the second match against New Zealand, Goswami took three for 23 and has been captain Raj's go-to bowler over the years. Goswami can open with the new ball in this line-up

9) Mohammed Shami

Mohammad Shami found his form in New Zealand and was voted player of the series for his efforts. He was consistent in giving the initial breakthroughs by dismissing the New Zealand openers right through the series. He got nine wickets at an average of 15.33 and an economy rate of 4.75 and so should share the new ball with Goswami.

While the likes of Bhuvaneswar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah would have made the team overall, since this team is based on performances in the New Zealand series, Shami gets the spot.

10) Yuzvendra Chahal

Yuzvendra Chahal got into wicket-taking form against Australia in the decider at Melbourne, where he took 6 for 42 to restrict the hosts to just 230 runs. He continued his good form in New Zealand, claiming nine wickets in four matches. He has claimed the wicket of Tom Latham thrice and got both Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson once each. The in-form Chahal is the leg-spinner in this team.

11) Poonam Yadav

Poonam Yadav was the highest wicket-taker for India in the New Zealand series with six wickets. In a total of 38 ODIs, she has taken 59 wickets at an economy rate of 3.82. She would be the ideal leg-spinner to partner Chahal in this team.