India captain Mithali Raj sets sight on World T20
Cape Town: Fresh after registering a historic double series win on the South African tour, India One-Day International (ODI) captain Mithali Raj said the team can be a surprise element in the World T20 in November.
The Indian women’s team scripted history on Saturday when they beat South Africa women by 54 runs in the fifth and final T20 international.
The Harmanpreet Kaur-led side displayed an all-round performance as they outclassed the Dane van Niekerk-led team, bowling them out for 112 to lift the T20 series trophy by a margin of 3-1 in the five-match series.
“The team still requires a lot of hard work in a lot of areas when it comes to the T20 format. We have been very good in the one-day format, but the way the girls have responded to this format in South Africa, I think there is a lot of scope that we can be a surprise element in the World T20,” Raj, 35, told ESPN Cricinfo.
“Now people back home are keen to watch on television, they want to know what the Indian women’s team is doing in South Africa.
“It is just unfortunate the one-dayers weren’t televised but I am happy the T20s were televised and we have given a very good result. So, getting back home, we have the tri-series against Australia and England, which is again going to be televised so I am hoping all of you will get glued to the TV and start cheering for India,” the veteran batswoman added.
Around Raj, there is a younger crop of promising young cricketers to ease the burden from her shoulders.
Th likes of Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur and Veda Krishnamurthy provide middle-order muscle, and in 17-year old Jemimah Rodrigues, who shared a 98-run stand with Raj in the series clincher, a star is being nurtured.
“Yes, that has helped my batting, knowing that the team is not completely dependent on me,” she said.
“I can at times take that initiative to try out a few strokes in the middle, without getting bothered if I get out. I am very happy that we have more than one or two match-winners in the squad. That makes it a very strong squad.”
Not a fan of the T20 format, Raj said she is confident of becoming a good player in the shortest format of the game by tuning herself to that mode.
“Honestly, I am not someone who is very fond of the T20 format.
“But since I am preparing for the T20 World Cup, it was important for me to start scoring runs in this format to gain that momentum. I am very happy that this series has given me that confidence that I can be a T20 player.
“It is a conscious effort to turn my game so that I can get used to the T20 format because as an opener it is important that I have all-round shots and also see that aerial route, because the first six overs are crucial so you can give a start to the team.”
India’s next international assignment is against Australia, with the first of three ICC Women’s Championship matches beginning on March 12.
It is a busy calendar for India as they will also host Australia and England in a T20I tri-series in March, followed by three ODIs against England at home.