Australia are set to run into an India team bursting with confidence when they arrive on the subcontinent, after their upcoming rivals wrapped up historic dual series wins in South Africa.
For the first time, the India women claimed series wins in both the ODIs and T20Is on a single tour of South Africa, after Harmanpreet Kaur’s team sealed a 3-1 victory in the fifth and final 20-over match at Newlands at the weekend.
They did so without pace great Jhulan Goswami, who missed the T20 series due to a heel injury and is in doubt for the matches against Australia, with veteran batter Mithali Raj stepping up with a player-of-the-series performance, posting three half-centuries in four innings and turning around what had been a poor personal campaign in the ODIs.
India’s sole loss of the series came in the third match when Raj was dismissed without scoring.
Earlier this month, they claimed a 2-1 series win over the Proteas in the one-dayers.
Now, the fourth-ranked team return home to meet the Southern Stars in a three-match ODI series next month, before a T20 tri-series also featuring England.
Speaking after the announcement of Australia’s ODI and T20I squads last week, allrounder Jess Jonassen said she was expecting a tough challenge against the team that knocked Australia out of last year’s World Cup.
"It wouldn’t surprise me if they are considered the favourites, even though we’re (the higher ranked) team," Jonassen said.
"They’ve had it over us a bit recently, the last T20 series (in Australia) they beat us and the way they ended our World Cup campaign as well, they had quite a few good performances across the board.
"They’ll go in with a lot of confidence."
Australia will have kept a close eye on India’s recent fortunes in South Africa, where standout performers during the T20I series included solid debut series from teenagers Pooja Vastrakar and Jemimah Rodrigues.
Right-arm seamer Vastrakar, 18, stepped up in the absence of Goswami, taking four wickets and bowling economically, while 17-year-old middle-order batter Rodrigues’ three innings for the series included knocks of 37 (27) and 44 (34).
Rodrigues also attracted worldwide attention – including praise from legend Sachin Tendulkar – for a superb boundary catch in the fifth T20I.
Jonassen said she was looking forward to returning to India, where she helped Australia reach the final of the 2016 World T20 tournament.
"I’ve been to India a few times over the years and it’s a great place to tour," Jonassen said. "They’re cricket mad over there and being a spin bowler as well, it’s generally quite spin-friendly conditions.
"India are obviously on the improve and have played some really good cricket recently, it’s going to be a tough series over there on their home soil."
Australia have never lost an ODI series to India but will still be feeling the pain of last year’s World Cup semi-final, while they suffered their first-ever T20 series defeat to India in early 2016.
The Southern Stars, led by returning captain Meg Lanning, depart for the subcontinent on Saturday and will play two warm-up games before the first ODI in Vadodara on March 12.