Shillong, Mar 2: Flush from their success in last year’s Women’s Senior One Day Trophy, Meghalaya will face their toughest challenge yet as they have graduated to the 2020-21 season’s Elite Group, which begins on 13th March.

The senior women’s team was Meghalaya’s most successful in any BCCI tournament last season, racking up seven victories and only two defeats in the Plate Group.

This time around Meghalaya have been clubbed with Vidarbha, Karnataka, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in Elite Group E. The 22-member squad, to be captained by Debasmita Dutta, will depart for Chennai on Thursday.

Today the Meghalaya Cricket Association held a short send-off for the squad at Polo Ground.

“Last year you played like tigresses. Debasmita fought with an injured hand to win a game,” Honorary Secretary Gideon Kharkongor recounted, referring to the game against Mizoram where Dutta batted on despite breaking her thumb. “That is the spirit that will determine your position in the table. You mustn’t be awed by your opponents, just play your game, which you have been training hard for. Do this and I’m sure you will stun the nation.”

Saranya RS will coach the team while Priyanka Mondal is the trainer and Wandashisha Dkhar the physio. This is the same trio that were in the support staff last year. The women will have a new manager in Sengbao Momin for this campaign.

Former Honorary Secretary and Convenor of the BCCI Taskforce, Naba Bhattacharjee, also expressed confidence in the women’s team’s abilities.

“You started with baby steps but have now graduated from girls to women not because of your age but because of your performances. You are representing our great state of Meghalaya in the Elite Group and there are no shortcuts to success – those who were ready to work hard a couple of years ago are here today,” he said.

In preparation for the tournament, a camp was held in Tura, which began in January. As the final squad took shape they were brought to Shillong.

Leonard Wankhar, who last year passed the Level 1 coaches course of the National Cricket Academy, has helped to prepare the team ahead of their departure and said he is hopeful that the women’s performance will inspire future cricketers.

“I’m proud to say that I believe in each and every one of you. This is a huge opportunity for you and you can be icons for up and coming women cricketers in the state,” he said.

Last year Dutta claimed 18 wickets and Riticia Nongbet 10 and Meghalaya will hope for another strong campaign from both along with contributions from the other bowlers. The top scorer for the state was guest player Saee Purandare and she has been retained by Meghalaya this season in addition to two new guest players – Rajani Lodhi and Ahireeta Mukherjee.

“It is a big joy to see you all succeed but we want your success to be a habit,” MCA Technical Committee member Saibal Dasgupta said. “Wearing the Meghalaya jersey will get your adrenaline going. Being in an Elite Group means that you’re on top, so you shouldn’t be looking at the other competitors. Just play as a team and support each other.”

Meghalaya squad: Debasmita Dutta (C), Saee Purandare (V-C), Ajima Sangma, Avril Syiem, Daiaka Warjri, Deimaphishisha Lamare, Deiphibapynshngain Lyngdoh Mawnai, Eiffelene Nongkynrih, Luiza Tamang, Monica Lyngdoh, Neelam Roy, Neha Hajong, Pinky Chanda, Polly Mawroh, Rajani Lodhi, Rebeldalis Syiemlieh, Riticia Nongbet, Tiewshailin Lyngdoh, Sanchisa Sangma, Solina Jaba, Sandria Momin, Ahireeta Mukherjee

Support staff: Saranya RS (coach), Sengbao Momin (manager), Wandashisha Dkhar (physio), Priyanka Mondal (trainer)

vs Vidarbha, 13th March
vs Karnataka, 15th March
vs Delhi, 17th March
vs Tamil Nadu, 19th March
vs Himachal Pradesh, 21st March

(Meghalaya Cricket Association photo)

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