Shikha Pandey's surprise return from the wilderness may have raised a few eyebrows, but Indian women's team captain Harmanpreet Kaur on Wednesday said the veteran pacer could just be the X-factor they need in the upcoming T20 World Cup in South Africa. (More Cricket News)
The 33-year-old, who last played for India in October 2021 before being controversially dropped from the team, was brought back for the upcoming Tri-series and the following T20 World Cup slated for February 10-26.
The Tri-series will also involve the West Indies.
"She's (Shikha) a very experienced bowler, that's the only reason we wanted to bring her in the side," Harmanpreet told reporters on the eve of their Tri-series opener against hosts South Africa in East London.
In the absence of retired Jhulan Goswami, India's pace department looked thin, especially in the home series against Australia recently, which they lost 1-4.
And it seems, this was the reason behind recalling Shikha, a two-time World Cup finalist (ODI World Cup in 2017 and T20I World Cup in 2020).
Harmanpreet said Shikha would come in handy both in powerplay and death overs on bowling-friendly South African conditions.
"The tracks in South Africa are more friendly. We wanted to strengthen our medium pace lineup as we are in South Africa. We need more pace bowling options. She (Shikha) did really well in the domestic season. She has done really well for the country whenever she got an opportunity. That's the reason she has been recalled."
Asked about what would be Shikha's role in the side, Harmanpreet said: "She's someone who can swing in powerplay, she has the experience to bowl in death overs also. We have given her different types of scenarios where she can go and execute herself.
"We just want to play our natural game, that's what we are discussing. We don't want to try anything extra, and continue what we are doing well."
The India skipper said the three-nation tournament is very important in the context of the upcoming World Cup.
"We didn't win (against Australia) but we achieved a lot of positives. We have to keep doing the hard work. This series is very important for us heading into the World Cup and getting our rhythm back," Harmanpreet said.
The series will also mark the return of pace bowling all-rounder Pooja Vastrakar, who missed the Australia series due to an injury.
"She's (Vastrakar) with us only, she's doing really well, bowling, batting and fielding in the nets. She's doing well in all departments. She's very important to the side. We will take a final call (on her inclusion) after talking to the physio."