We have to play fearlessly: Mithali Raj
Mumbai, Sep 22: India will be among one of the eight nations participating in the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2012 in Sri Lanka starting later this month. The Women in Blue will be part of Group A, which also includes Pakistan, former champions England and defending champions Australia.
Since they started playing T20Is, the India women have won a series only once when they beat England in the only T20I in England back in 2006. This year, however, they have had a poor run in international cricket and have lost to both Australia and England in their recent encounters. After losing to the West Indies, they lost a five-match T20I series to Australia 1-4 at home in 2011-12, followed by 0-2 away loss to England in June 2012.
Speaking about their tough draw, captain Mithali Raj told bcci.tv, “It is a tough group because one team, Australia, is the champion of the last [World] T20 edition, and England is the No.1 side. We have the top two women’s teams in our group. Though we lost the T20 series against Australia at home, we won the last T20, so that gives us the confidence that they are a beatable side. And England, yes, we lost the T20 series 0-2 in England in June, but I think if we prepare well and because it is a short format, anything can happen. I am being very positive. If we prepare well and if our approach is good, then things might change for us. Our first and big step would be to qualify for the semi-finals. Because of the kind of group that we are in, if we get to play the semis, then there are huge chances of us playing in the finals, because from the other side you get teams, which are okay teams.”
Hoping to turn things around, the India women have been practicing hard for the forthcoming event. Before their camp at NCA, Bangalore that started on September 12, they trained at the probables’ camp. Speaking about the preparations, Raj said, “We had a probables’ camp in Guntur and during the camp we played a number of matches amongst ourselves and with the boys, so that way it was very good.”
However, it will require an extraordinary effort to pull off wins and to do so the skipper has urged her team to play bold cricket. Raj said, “I think our team needs to be more fearless. I would emphasise on asking the girls to play fearlessly because unless you go all-out and play out of your skin, you can’t beat the best sides. You need to do something different when you have to beat England and Australia. You have to be practical [and acknowledge] that right now they are better teams than us. They have beaten us in the past. We have to play out of our skins, we have to be fearless. We have to be very positive and competitive, only then you might do things, which you have never done and that will work for you on that particular day.”
Discussing the team’s reliance on her and bowling spearhead, Jhulan Goswami, Raj said, “Over a period of time because of our consistent performance people might presume that, but we have some good youngsters in the team also. It is just that they have to get going. We have youngsters like N Niranjana who made a good comeback, Harmanpreet Kaur and we have left-arm spinner Gouhar Sultana. They probably need to be more consistent in their performances, which would be helpful for the team. And because it is a short format, even small performances and small contributions can be very vital to the team’s results.”
Speaking on the subject to bcci.tv, former skipper Goswami said, “There is a lot of responsibility on Mithali and Amita [Sharma], Harman and myself. We have to take the responsibility. We always believe that when you have more responsibility, your best performances will come out. We have played in tougher situations before and this will not be new for us. We know our job and definitely the four of us will try to stick together and come out with new solutions and ideas and try to deliver them on the field. We are representing the country, so expectations and self expectations will be there. The whole world will be watching. It is a big platform, it is a World Cup and you can’t take anything lightly. If we can play to our potential, then definitely we can give us some good news and play your own role and be calm and give 100 percent on the field.”
“We are looking forward to the World Cup,” she added.
Speaking about the conditions that await them, the pacer said, “The conditions are sometimes a bit similar in Sri Lanka. We have to take that advantage. But we are playing our league matches at Galle and I have never played in that part of Sri Lanka; I have played in Colombo and Dumbulla. So, I don’t know how exactly the wicket will be in Galle. I heard from somebody that it will be similar to Colombo and places that I have played. Galle will be little bit windy because it is outside the sea face. Whatever comes, we should always accept and adjust and deliver the best for our country.”
The conditions in Galle have traditionally been known to favour spinners, so left-arm spinner Gouhar Sultana is also likely to play a vital in the team’s fortunes in the tournament.
Talking about the tournament Goswami said, “It is a big thing for me. The last two World Cups we have played well but not up to the mark in the sense we haven’t reached the finals. We will prepare well. Before this World Cup we have played plenty of T20 against teams like West Indies, England and Australia, it has given us a lot of confidence and it has given us lot of ideas. The more matches you play, the more experience and ideas you get and the more confident you are. And it is important to be able to deliver those ideas on the field. In the shorter version of the game you cannot predict anything it will unfold ball by ball; it can change ball by ball. The preparation is good and the team is more balanced, so hopefully we will go there and play good cricket for the country.”
Harmanpreet Kaur, who has been among the more consistent performers and is also the vice-captain of the side, said, “It being the World Cup there is definitely more pressure and so I want to do even better for the team.” She has been preparing accordingly for the event and told us, “I have been practicing at the Punjab Cricket Association with the boys.”
Speaking about the added responsibility of being the vice-captain, she said, “Yes the pressure increases. As it is when you are playing for any team you can feel the pressure. When there is a responsibility like this, there is even more pressure. But I have been practicing, so I don’t feel that there is too much load on me, there isn’t that much pressure; so let’s see what happens.”