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DAMBULLA: The Indian women's cricket team will be eyeing a fresh start under new all-format skipper Harmanpreet Kaur against Sri Lanka in the first T20 International of the three-match series, starting here on Thursday.
With the T20s all set to feature in the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and also at the ICC Women's T20 World Cup eight months away, India will look to begin their campaign on a high.
This will be the first international assignment for the Indian women since the disappointment at the 2022 Women's World Cup.
Notably, the Indian team, for the first time, will be without the legendary Mithali Raj, who hung up her boots earlier this month after an illustrious 23-year-old career.
On the personal front, skipper Harmanpreet will be eyeing a milestone.
The 33-year-old batter, who has amassed 2319 runs from 121 matches, needs another 46 runs to eclipse Mithali in the shortest format.
The spotlight will also be on vice-captain Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet and coach Ramesh Powar, who recorded a seven-match winning streak in the last T20 World Cup before India were knocked out in the semifinals by South Africa.
Hosts Sri Lanka, on the other hand, will start the series on the back foot as they were recently whitewashed 0-3 by Pakistan in a T20 series.
However, the Indians will have to remain vigilant against the likes of Sri Lankan veterans Oshadi Ranasinghe and Chamari Athapaththu.
The Indians last played a one-off game against New Zealand in the shortest format in February this year, which they lost by 18 runs.
Going into the series, the likes of Mandhana, Shefali Verma, Deepti Sharma and pacer Pooja Vastrakar will inject enough confidence owing to their current form.
Going by current form and world rankings, India will definitely start as favourites against the Island nation and the hosts will need to raise their game by leaps and bounds to upset the Indians.
India skipper Harmanpreet said fielding is one area they are giving more emphasis on in the series against Sri Lanka.
"As a team, there are quite a few areas we are currently working on to improve keeping in mind this particular series against Sri Lanka.
While our core strength lies in our batting, we are giving extra efforts to improve our fielding skills," she said.
"All our top batters and bowlers are fit for this series and we all expect to give our very best in this series," said Harmanpreet in the pre-match press conference.
The three-game T20 series will be followed by as many ODIs, scheduled to be played at Pallekele on July 1, 4 and 7.
Teams (from): India: Harmanpreet Kaur (C), Smriti Mandhana (VC), Simran Bahadur, Yastika Bhatia, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Richa Ghosh (WK), Sabbhineni Meghana, Meghna Singh, Poonam Yadav, Renuka Singh, Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Radha Yadav.
Sri Lanka: Chamari Athapaththu (C), Nilakshi de Silva, Kavisha Dilhari, Vishmi Gunaratne, Ama Kanchana, Hansima Karunaratne, Achini Kulasuriya, Sugandika Kumari, Harshitha Madavi, Hasini Perera, Udeshika Prabodhani, Oshadi Ranasinghe, Inoka Ranaweera, Sathya Sandeepani, Anushka Sanjeewani, Malsha Shehani, Tharika Sewwandi.
Match starts at 2:00PM.(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)