In a virtual media interaction ahead of their departure for the ODI series and subsequent World Cup in New Zealand, India head coach Ramesh Powar and skipper Mithali Raj spoke about the team’s preparations over the last six months and how they will approach the five ODIs against New Zealand, starting on February 11 before the ICC event in March-April.
Powar spoke candidly about the non-selection of the three senior players – Jemimiah Rodrigues, Shikha Pandey and Punam Raut – and said their experience will not be missed.
“Every player in the scheme of things knows where they stand. What is their future and present,” said Powar.
“We don’t have to communicate differently to them... because see at the end of it five selectors, the captain and coach, they have discussed all the players and we came out with 18 players who can play better in the New Zealand series as well as in World Cup,” he added.
India picked a 15-member squad and three reserves for the New Zealand tour. Fast bowlers Meghna Singh and Renuka Singh, and batter Yastika Bhatia, made the cut after impressing in Australia.
“You cannot pick everyone. There’s only 15 and then three standbys. And we were looking at the particular things like fast bowlers like Renuka, Meghna, they were doing well. So if they’re doing well, they are going to get their chances in upcoming matches,” said Powar.
He added: “Again, batting unit is consistent with Yastika, Smriti and Mithali so everyone is consistent so we didn’t change much. At the end of it seven of us getting together and picking the right team and backing the players, that matters at the end. Every player whoever is not there in the team, they know why they are not there.
“This is not a one-time communication, it’s been for a long period of time, at least last six months. I have beeb very clear about the roles. I told them specifically what is expected of them. This is a competition, profession that you’re performing. If you don’t perform you don’t get your chances.”
Mithali led the team to the final in the last edition in 2017, giving a massive boost to women’s cricket in India. Comparing that team and the current lot, the veteran batter said the 2022 batch has more exposure due to leagues in England and Australia.
“In the last four years, the standard in domestic cricket has improved massively. I’ve seen a lot many players scoring hundreds. Many girls have got an opportunity to play leagues abroad. So it does give a lot of exposure to many players. We also have more all-rounders,” said Mithali.
India lost the ODI series in Australia but gave the hosts a stern test. The visitors were able to post 250-plus totals twice in three games and they are aiming for the same consistency in New Zealand.
“Firstly, if we have to visit the 2017 World Cup where the team did well and put on a score of 250-270 is because there’s at least one top-order bat who played through the innings and the rest of them revolved around that batter,” said Mithali.
“So it’s important that the top order, one of them, takes the responsibility of playing through the innings and there has to be a a partnership or two of 50... that way we would be able to score 250-270,” said the leading run getter in women’s cricket.
Mithali added: “I think too much importance is given to strike rate by you all. It is always spoken when it comes to battling or putting up big totals. I just wanted to know if you all only follow the strike rates of the India players or the players from the other teams.
“...because in the Australia series itself, the game that Australia won, the decider, Beth Mooney scored her 50 in 80 odd balls, but she went on to play a match-winning innings for her team. So as for me, cricket is a game played on situations on the ground.
“And yes, it is important that we keep that in mind that we need to have a healthy strike rate. But having said that, we are not only entirely focussed on strike rate. Sometimes you have to play fast, but sometimes you have to play to get your team out of the hole too,” she said.
Mithali also said that all-rounder Pooja Vastrakar provided the X-factor to the team.
Harmanpreet Kaur has managed only three fifty-plus scores since her match-winning 171 against Australia in the 2017 World Cup semifinal. But Powar was confident the senior batter will come good in New Zealand.
“It is important you back your players and that’s what we do in this team. As far as Harman is concerned, she’s just came out of the WBBL as the player of the tournament. So currently she’s in good form and it’s up to her to capitalise those good days into best days in the World Cup,” he said.
Powar added that he is happy with where the team stands at the moment and said gaps that existed have been filled.
Inputs from PTI