India captain Mithali Raj and head coach Ramesh Powar on Monday listed out their objectives from the ODI series against Australia and said playing the mighty hosts is the best possible preparation for next year’s Women’s World Cup.
Powar, who had spoken about the need for playing fearless cricket following the UK tour in July, said it is high time the team starts scoring 250 consistently to compete with the likes of England and Australia, who are on a record 22-match winning streak in ODIs.
The team also needs to improve in the fast bowling department with veteran Jhulan Goswami not getting enough support from the other end.
“Moving towards the World Cup as a group, batting unit, bowling unit, we have set some targets. We want to consistently score over 250. And we are planning towards that,” said Powar ahead of the series opener on Tuesday.
“In bowling we are trying to get opponents all out so we are trying to use Jhulan Goswami as the experienced bowler who can give us good openings in front and senior players as always, we expect them to guide youngsters and drive the team which they are doing quite well.”
Mithali, who was the only consistent batter against England with three consecutive fifties, said she could move up to No 3 from 4, like she did in the warm-up game if the other batters are performing as per expectations.
“We definitely are looking at the combinations for the World Cup, and we will be giving a little more game time to the players to fit into those roles,” said Mithali.
“That’s our objective in the series, but the main thing definitely is that we are fielding the best XI to win every game. Playing against the best side before the World Cup, it is the best preparation that we can get.”
On batting at No 3, Mithali said: “I have been quite flexible with my batting order whether it is number three or number four, but it all depends on the composition of the team.
“If we have a good middle order then I push my order up to three. If there is a little more inexperience in the middle order then I push myself to No 4. Now with Harman out of the first ODI, I probably have to think about my order.”
Mithali also said the 14-day quarantine in Brisbane was tough on the players but they chose to look at the positive side and kept themselves going with training sessions in the room, zoom meetings and team bonding activities during which the skipper got to know a lot more about her teammates than just their cricketing life.
A lot of bouncers were used by the Australian pacers during the warm-up and India are geared up for that challenge.
“We also have gathered that input that you know they will be using a lot of the short pitch deliveries for our batters,” she said.
“So we do have the sidearm throwers in the team so that’s where the girls have been using a lot of time playing them, playing more of the short of length and short pitch deliveries. So lot more of the cuts and the pulls we’ve been working on in our training sessions.”
Powar spoke about the progress of Shafali Verma in international cricket and Jemimah Rodrigues’ return to form after a forgettable time against England.
“The way she played in England, we were happy and as a 17-year-old I think we have to give a little breathing space,” said Powar.
“Mithali, SS Das (batting coach) and I, have had conversations with her. She knows what is expected of her, so we don’t push a 17-year-old who is very expressive in her batting. We don’t want to curtail her game, but we want to give her freedom with some more responsibility and SS does play a major role.
“He has spent a lot of time with Shafali, and he’s working on her game, and mental aspects also, and she has played the hundred. She’s got some confidence from England. We can’t forget that she is just 17.”
On Jemimah, he added: “She will be and she is part of our plans going forward, and it’s about combination. We are trying to find the right composition for the team going into the World Cup. So she might miss out (in the ODIs against Australia), she might play also. We’ll take it one game at a time.”
Australia will be tough to beat in their own backyard but India are up for the challenge.
“We don’t think about opponents,” said Powar. “If you keep thinking of Australia or England, you will lose your battle in the dressing room, so we don’t think that way. We just think of playing quality cricket.”
Inputs from PTI