“It is going to be a big game and if we can pull out one win, it will be exceptional by the team”
True to her nature, Mithali Raj played it cool on Wednesday, one day ahead of a much-anticipated and much-awaited semi-final against Australia in Derby in the Women’s World Cup.
Rather than focusing on the big occasion, she placed more emphasis on how important it would be for the team if they managed to knock out the defending champions. The other big positive which she mentioned at length was the venue: Derby.
The team has played four matches at Derby and won all four of them, including two unexpected and marvellous wins against higher-ranked New Zealand and England. It was at this venue where they kicked off the tournament by beating the hosts and then triumphed over the Kiwis in a do-or-die clash on Saturday.
“We’ve played a lot of the group stage here, four games, so we are aware of the conditions and that is our advantage,” said Raj. But her Australia counterpart Nicole Bolton conceded that India’s familiarity with the conditons could provide them an advantage.
“India have played a couple of matches at Derby as well so they’ll be pretty familiar with the conditions as well,” said the 28-year-old. “We’ll have to do a bit of homework, look at the conditions and see what Derby has to offer because I think India will come out and really take it to us.”
The Australian batter also pointed out that her team’s superior head-to-head record was not going to have much bearing on the match. “We can’t afford to be off our game, as you have seen throughout the tournament, if you have an off day the other team can get a big jump on you,” she added.
But, despite India’s intensity at certain points in this World Cup and their good form at the venue, Raj was under no pretensions that India would find things tough.
“It’s all about how the teams respond to the situation and the conditions on the day,” she said. “How the players play the situation is important because having said that Derby is our home ground, you need to perform on that day to win.”
They definitely will because India have only beaten Australia once in their last eight meetings. Three of their batters are in the top 10 of the run-getters list this tournament. So Raj was nothing but understated when she called them “a very good side”.
As for Bolton? She kept it quite simple.
“If we play our best cricket, hopefully we’ll win the match”.