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Women’s World Cup 2022 – Mithali Raj: Younger players ‘have shown that they have the ability to play at this level’


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“I definitely know my playing composition for the first couple of games and I look forward to giving game time to all the core players during the warm-ups”

India’s build-up to the women’s ODI World Cup has been far from ideal, as they lost a five-match series 4-1 in New Zealand, where the marquee event will be held. Despite that, Mithali Raj, the India captain, has placed her faith in the younger players in the line-up to lift the team when the time comes, saying that the likes of Shafali Verma, Richa Ghosh, Meghna Singh and Pooja Vastrakar “have shown that they have the ability to play at this level”.

Speaking at the ICC’s pre-tournament captains’ press conference, Raj said, “They all have been given good game time and those series have really helped them, and me as a captain, to find out where they fit in into the composition of the team.

“I definitely know my playing composition for the first couple of games and I look forward to giving game time to all the core players during the warm-ups and also to those players who will get opportunity at some point in the World Cup.”

Raj confirmed that the composition she spoke of had space for Harmanpreet Kaur, who has gone through an extended run of poor form internationally, but scored a 66-ball 63 in the final ODI, which India won by six wickets.

“The bowling unit took a bit of time. The spinners that we bank on, they do also understand these wickets are batting friendly and they need to tighten up line and length and bowl consistently”

Mithali Raj on the bowlers’ performance in the New Zealand ODIs

India reached the final the last time the tournament was played, in 2017 in England, before losing to the hosts by nine runs after having threatened to pull off victory when on 191 for 3 in the 43rd over chasing 229. They lost their final seven wickets for 28 runs as Anya Shrubsole returned 6 for 46.

To repeat that finish, or go one better, India will be up against it, with Australia looming as the big favourites, New Zealand expected to do well at home, and England always among the frontrunners.

“We do have an experienced core group from last edition,” Raj said. “Most of them, even the young players who recently got into the side, had the opportunity of playing in [T20] leagues. That gives them exposure other than bilateral series. When you go into big events, you depend on experience not just young players. Having both together is a good mix.

“The young talent in the side today, I tell them that you don’t have the experience of the past World Cups, so it’s a clean slate for you, all you have to do is enjoy the big stage. The only advice I would give the young players is enjoy the big stage because if you pile up the pressure you may not be playing the best that the team and you would want to do in the World Cup.”

Raj has been criticised of late for scoring slower than needed in white-ball cricket, but gave a good account of her form in the ODIs against New Zealand, finishing second overall on the scorers’ chart, behind Amelia Kerr (353 runs) with 232 runs from five innings. Her runs came at a strike rate of 82.56.

“As far as me, personally, I am happy with the way that I’ve been scoring runs, and I would love to continue the form into the World Cup,” she said. Her role, as has been the case for a while, is to hold the innings together and be the pivot around which the likes of Smriti Mandhana, Verma, Ghosh, Harmanpreet and others play their natural games.

As for the build-up to the World Cup, Raj chose to look at the positives.

“The win [in the final game] is important for any team which is getting into a big event,” she said. “The takeaway definitely is how the batting unit has turned out in each game. The bowling unit took a bit of time. The spinners that we bank on, they do also understand these wickets are batting friendly and they need to tighten up line and length and bowl consistently.

“We definitely also look to put more effort on fielding, it is an area we are consistently working on.”



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