It was on this day 22 years ago, in 1999, that Mithali Raj made her debut for Team India. Over the years, she has gone on to become a legend in the game and an inspiration for many. Now, in 2021, she is set to lead India in the ODI series against England - an important part of India’s run up to the ICC Women’s World Cup 2022. Ahead of the first one-dayer, Mithali was asked if the team celebrated her debut anniversary, and what advice she’d give her 16-year-self.
Here’s her response:
“We just arrived for our session, so no thought of celebrations yet. We have an important game. Feels nice to get up to messages congratulating me on my career. If I have to give one advice to my younger self: enjoy getting onto the ground representing your country. At that time, the expectation was so much that I didn’t realise the importance of wearing the blue jersey, that will be something I tell 16 year old Mithali," she said in the press conference.
“We look really positive going into the World Cup. The way the girls performed to save the Test has added confidence to the unit. England is a very good side, one of the best in the world. They will have the advantage playing at home. But we have players who have played leagues here in England, we’ll gather information from them and that will help us do well.
Mithali said her batting position in the series and in future will revolve around the match situation.
“I think I’ve scored a lot of runs at No. 3. I started as an opener and then came to 3 and 4. When you play a lot at 3, you be very flexible. I have been very flexible, have played in different batting orders. I have played even at No. 8 or 9. At this stage, I’m comfortable whether it’s No. 3 or 4. It revolves around the situation, and that’s always been my approach."
Switching to topics around the team, Mithali said she wants the team to bounce back to winning ways after a poor home series against South Africa. Mithali said the Women’s World Cup, in New Zealand, will be in their minds, but winning this series was more important for now.
“New Zealand is windier than England. I wouldn’t say similar conditions, but more or less, the wickets there are far better. The last time we played there, it was a good one-day series. Our preparation has already started, when we get into a series we always look to win. we always consider game plans/combinations in the run up to the World Cup, but it’s important to win a game/series. The last series was not very good for the team, as captain I want the team to get back to winning ways.
“Biggest thing we’d want the team to do well is have a strong mindset. Yes we lost the home series, but conditions are very different. So we can’t have the same approach. Yes, we have to have a more positive approach. Right now, whatever strategies we have tried to work in our training session is something we want to carry into the match and be consistent."
Mithali said the current youngsters in the side have benefited a lot from leagues in England and Australia.
“The application has been good from the youngsters, especially girls who are touring for the first time. Leagues around the world have given different exposure to the players. It has added more dimension to the game, their preparation etc. That gives more knowledge of how to go about your game. It helps you develop confidence when you face a situation like that which you’re not very experienced. That’s how these girls stood up and delivered."
Mithali on why play was called off on the last day of the Test against England, with Sneh Rana approaching a century:
We wanted to continue the play, that’s what we informed the opposing captain. But I was told by Sneh Rana, I was also on the backfoot when I saw bails were taken off, she told bad light call was taken by the umpire.
I saw the teams congratulating each other. The umpire told that since teams are congratulating each other, it’s pretty much given that the game is over. That’s what Sneh Rana told me.
Mithali on defending totals:
We have defended totals in the past, we have the bowling attack to do that. Spinners especially have won matches irrespective of wickets. Even in England in the 2017 WC in England… it all depends on how as a team we put on a total if we bat first or if we have a total to defend, it boils down to the rhythm and timing of the batters and bowlers.
Mithali on Shafali Verma:
That’s how she plays, her strength and style of batting. There will be times when she gives us a headstart. She’s a young kid, she’ll also learn to build an innings. As a captain, I want her to enjoy her style of playing. If we lose early wickets, we as middle order are there to rebuild, or if we get a good start, take the momentum forward. We have the batting depth to do that.
Mithali on team selection:
Healthy competition is always good in the team. Having said that, we pick the team based on the combination. Girls also understand that. Accordingly, we see our batting order or batting depth. Allrounders coming in… we do have few options, we’ll select based on the team composition.