Mansi Joshi might not get a single game in the ICC Women’s World Cup.
Her team has decided to go in with three fast bowlers in the tournament. And the World Cup is in England.
Read these two sentences in isolation and you would think that Joshi is a shoo-in to play every game. It’s England, you need pace bowling options, at least three. Right?
Wrong. Because, her team is India.
India’s team selection gives you a fair idea of their plans. They have picked four frontline spinners for cricket’s biggest tournament, which will be hosted in five English cities. And they have gone in with just three fast bowlers.
Joshi faces tough competition for a slot in the eleven. Jhulan Goswami is the world’s most successful bowler in terms of wickets. She has led the Indian attack for more than 15 years. Shikha Pandey has been India’s go-to bowler in the past year, picking up wickets with both the new ball and the old. India’s four spinners have 96 ODIs of experience between them. Joshi has five.
So it will probably take an unforeseen injury to the first choice bowlers, or a track as green as she is, to see Joshi in the eleven. If she does make it through, hopefully for the second reason, not the first, keep an eye out for her. She will probably impress you.
Born in Roorkee but now living in Dehradun, Joshi plays her domestic cricket for Haryana. Her bowling action is an aesthete’s pleasure. A strong run up, hang time that makes the photographers' job easy, a classical side-on gather, and good arm speed, all make for good viewing. Add to that a strong frame and height that inches towards six feet, and you have the archetypical fast bowler.
Her stock delivery is the outswinger, which makes her the perfect complement to Goswami’s seamers and Pandey’s inswingers. And she has pace; no dibbly dobbly bowler this.
When Goswami chose to wear the number 25 jersey instead of the 10 she had sported on her back for many years, Joshi was delighted to grab jersey number 10. If there is one person Joshi admires more than Kishore Kumar, it is Sachin Tendulkar. Now she is part of a tournament for which Tendulkar is the brand ambassador. But it was almost not the case.
Joshi was not a part of India’s ODI plans as they picked the team for the Women’s World Cup Qualifiers in January this year. A late injury to Goswami and rookie pacer Sukanya Parida meant that Joshi found herself in line to make her ODI debut, just two months after earning her first T20I cap. While her debut match was a quiet one, she picked up three wickets against Bangladesh in her next game.
She has only had a taste of international cricket in the last six months. So the 23-year-old is also young to the top flight. Yet her call-up has not come on the back of a stellar domestic performance, but most likely because of the potential she exudes.
Joshi picked up only four wickets in six one-day matches this season, and three wickets in T20s. She played a few useful knocks with the bat, sometimes being used as an opener - testament to her improved batting - but overall her season has been nothing spectacular. But once again, watch her bowl, and if you know your cricket, you will notice something about her, something that tells you that she is worth banking on.
In the Women’s Asia Cup that marked her debut, Joshi produced one of the standout deliveries of the tournament to dismiss Thailand skipper Sornnarin Tippoch which caused a flutter on social media.
— ICC (@ICC) February 8, 2017
This is what I can do, that delivery says, if you have eyes to see beyond the numbers and a heart to choose something that isn’t apparent yet.
Picks based on perceived talent rather than cold hard figures are not uncommon in a sport where the field is not yet that strong, as is the case with women’s cricket in India. I once went wicketless in an entire inter-zonal tournament, but still found myself in the national camp. Part of this was because there wasn’t a lot of competition, but I think a part of it was because the selectors saw enough talent in me to take a punt. At the back end of the camp, I justified that faith, getting back among the wickets against the cream of the country.
Similarly, Joshi has done enough to get the nod for the World Cup ahead of her competition, keeping the incumbent Parida out.
This tour will be challenging for Joshi in more ways than one. Not only does she need to learn quickly about the intricacies of bowling consistently in English conditions, but she also needs to handle the stress that comes with sitting out of the eleven, waiting for your chance. And if she does get one, it could well be her only opportunity to impress, adding to the pressure. The World Cup will be a test of her temperament as well as her skills.
Joshi might not get a single game in the ICC Women’s World Cup. But if she does, keep your eyes on her.