Mithali Raj gets real about India's chances at the World T20 later this year
In the city to promote Australian Diamonds, Mithali Raj tells mid-day that though India are a good one-day unit, it's still a work in progress in T20s.
A lot has changed for skipper Mithali Raj and the Indian's women cricket since they finished runners-up in the 50-over World Cup in England last year. But with rising reputation and recognition come higher pressure, and that's the reason the stylish batswoman is blunt in her assessment of the team's chances at the World T20 in the Caribbean this November.
In the city to promote Australian Diamonds, Mithali tells mid-day that though India are a good one-day unit, it's still a work in progress in T20s.
Excerpts from an interview.
On the change post the 2017 World Cup:
People knew who Mithali Raj was, but I was still quite anonymous. There have been times when I have heard people talking about me, without realising that I'm sitting next to them. But now, with women's cricket matches being televised, I get recognised a lot. Social media too has also played a very important role. Now, people recognise and talk about the team. Earlier, people would know either Jhulan [Goswami] or me. But today, every player is a brand in herself. The Indian women's team is a brand. That's the biggest change I have noticed. People follow every member of the team. Today, every state is happy to promote their women cricketers. I also see a lot of parents enrolling their girls into cricket academies. Earlier, they were just one or two and they too would fade away during exam time.
On the pressure of scrutiny:
Like I said, earlier people would know me by name, but wouldn't recognise me by face. That generation didn't have this [scrutiny] pressure, but they were unfortunate not to have the infrastructure despite so much of talent. This generation has everything going, but it all comes with a price. It's important to be real.
On women's cricket becoming more accountable with hikes in central contracts:
In our country, unless there are results, we don't back that [sport]. That culture must change because that's not how the Australians or the English think. That's why they are so successful in sport because they do not pressurise their players with high expectations. Winning and losing are a part of the sport. A team does not become bad overnight or with one bad series.
On India's chances at the World T20:
I can't say if we will be capable of power-hitting or improving our fielding in a major way. But yes, we are working in that direction because right now. A lot of power-hitting has come into the game. I have been following the tri-series in England where they started off with some high-scoring totals, but they have come down to 130s and 140s. In the West Indies, the wickets will be on the slower side. It's an island, so the wind factor must also be taken into account. We should be aiming to score around 150. I feel our team have a long way to go in T20 cricket. We are a very good one-day team. But we can't go into the T20 World Cup, thinking we are not going to win it.
On reports of a rift with coach Tushar Arothe:
Any discord is immaterial once you get onto the field because you are carrying a billion people's hopes. You cannot let anything come between that. Maybe you should wait till the next series [on the equation with coach]. By then you will know.
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