Indian women’s cricket has been on a high in the last three years. They captured the imagination of the nation when they finished runners-up in the 2017 ODI World Cup in England, and again reached the final of the T20 version in Australia early this year.
Mithali Raj, 37, India’s ODI team skipper who led in England, had looked forward to another strong World Cup showing but the edition in New Zealand scheduled for early 2021 has been postponed to February 2022 due to the pandemic.
The player with 209 ODIs and 89 T20Is under her belt talks about the preparation, disappointment of players due to the postponement and future plans.
Everybody was looking forward to the 2021 ODI World Cup after the good show in Australia, but it has been postponed. What are your thoughts?
One has to look at the bright side. The slot for the World Cup was in February and our domestic season will start only in October-November due to Covid-19. That would have meant we would have had just three months of preparation going into the World Cup. After a long break, the players have to start from scratch and will take some time to get into groove. Keeping that in mind, the schedule would have been extremely cramped and taxing for them. With the kind of uncertainty, and to give all teams an equal opportunity to prepare, the postponement looks fine. The players are disappointed as everyone was looking forward to it.
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You had personal goals for the 2021 World Cup. How would you prepare for the 2022 edition, considering it is some 18 months away?
I was already planning to play through 2021 and now the plan automatically falls into place as the World Cup is postponed to February, 2022. There is always some good that can come out of any situation; my body is feeling very strong after this prolonged break. All niggles are gone, and despite having limited access to facilities, I have been following a specialised training programme and diet. At the moment I am fresh and raring to get back to the ground. My goal has always been doing well in the next World Cup. A year’s extension won’t change that.
The BCCI president has finally made an announcement, providing some clarity on the 2020 schedule of the women’s team.
So many cricketers have reached out to me, excited about the resumption of cricket. The pandemic has hit us hard, affecting sporting events across the world. Credit should go to BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and IPL Governing Council for including women’s exhibition matches in IPL-13 and working on a plan to organise a preparatory camp along with other series. I am sure the upcoming season will benefit women cricketers.
How difficult will it be for the players to come out of this break and get back to playing?
If one knows the roadmap, it is not very difficult to handle the current challenges. It would be all about adjusting and being mentally strong. Moreover, all players have been following strict fitness regimes during the lockdown. The key is to adjust well to the match conditions and get together as a team. India team trainers have been monitoring player fitness and advising them during the break.
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My preparation is focused on getting back to normalcy; that would be getting back to the nets, getting the team together for the camps, chalking out a plan with the coach and players and concentrating to building momentum series by series, going step by step.
Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur have not been among the runs for a long time. How important will coming tournaments be for them?
Both have been extraordinary for India in the last three years. They have led India to many victories. Both are very talented and focused. Every cricketer goes through a rough patch. I am sure this break would have helped both unwind and chalk out a plan for the season. It is a matter of time before they click.
It has been a little over a year since WV Raman took over as coach. How has he helped the team?
He has been very professional and made things easy for the players. The most impressive thing he has done is maintain a positive atmosphere in the dressing room. He reaches out to seniors and young cricketers and also communicates well. Sometimes, youngsters are a bit nervous. That’s when coach Raman speaks to them and explains their role in the team. His experience has bolstered the team. He works well with the support staff and makes sure the players benefit.
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