We are hopeful of cashing in on home advantage, says Mithali Raj
Mumbai: Indian women`s team skipper Mithali Raj is hopeful that her team will use the home conditions to good effect in their opening World Cup match against the West Indies.
"Some of their players are not keeping well and they still have to get acclimatised to the conditions that might help us and also the kind form we are in, I am sure the girls will put up a good show," Mithali said at the press conference.
"I honestly feel if you have a flat track, it could be anybody`s game. There will be lot of runs, it`s a batting track. Bowling needs to be tightened up and there should be disciplined bowling attack. The fielding aspect could crucial," the skipper said.
"The wicket will not change in either innings, but the fielding will play a crucial part. Last year, we toured West Indies, though we lost the one-dayers, they are a side who are developing every year. They have good players and hard hitters too," she added.
Asked about the West Indies bowling attack, that features spinner Anisa Mohammed who claimed 7-14 in the final of the ICC Women`s World Cup Qualifier in 2011 against Pakistan, Raj said, "Anisa has been consistent wicket-taker against India. She has always taken 2-3 wickets against India.
"I don`t think it is going to be a challenge because it goes down to how you have prepared yourself for the World Cup considering the bowlers you are going to face."
On the advantages being the hosts, Raj reiterated that the weather will be the only upperhand they get compared to the other teams.
"The only advantage that we would have (as host nation) is having better idea about the conditions. During the practise games, the wickets we saw were quite flat. It is very helpful to batsmen and the scores are also quite good like 250 and 300 plus.
"So, I think ICC has provided batting tracks, so that a lot of runs are scored in the tournament. The weather can be our only advantage. It is humid. Our players have got used to the conditions with the camps in Mumbai," she said.
The Indian skipper however didn`t want dwell on the weaknesses of her team.
"I don`t want to talk about weaknesses, because when we prepare for a tournament, we try to work on our concerned areas and improve our strengths. The preparations have gone well, for instance in Bangalore we had our first camp.
"We played matches against the boys team. The second camp was at Bombay. Preparations have gone well. I am happy the way the girls played the first two warm-up games. It looks like the team is very compact," she said.
She further said that the openers were not clicking for the team, which was a problem but is satisfied with the efforts of Thirushkamini Murugesan and Poonam Raut in the warm-up matches.
"One thing I always felt was that India never had a good opening pair. That was a very big concern. This time we have Thirushkamini (Murugesan) who has made a comeback. In both the games (warm-up games) have done really well. They have given us a good start. That`s a positive sign," she added.
On personal front, Mithali is aiming to score heaps of runs.
"There has always been pressure on me to deliver each time I go out bat, irrespective of whether I am leading the side or not...It definitely feels nice that you are scoring runs and you are in that category and also that you are among the top players in the world. It only boosts. It definitely is a motivating factor for me to be consistent and keep scoring runs," she said.
Raj parried the question on former Indian skipper Diana Edulji`s comments about the way the cricket board treated the women`s team during their camp, and said, "I haven`t read the article, but yes people did come and speak to me about it. When we are getting into the World Cup, I want to have all positive vibes around me."
On Test cricket, the 30-year-old said,"Playing a Test game is very important. As a youngster, I played a lot of Test games which helped me build my temperament. I definitely feel Test matches are very important. If you are a good Test player, you can adapt well to T20 or One-day game. The ultimate challenge is Test game."
Asked if she gets recognised by people, Raj said, "Often, people relate to me by name and once I get introduced they say you are a woman cricketer. Because I am not there more on television, people don`t recognise me by my face, but definitely by my name."
"When I started playing cricket, I didn`t know women`s cricket existed back in the 80`s and 90s. But as and when I have graduated from a beginner to an international cricketer, then I have noticed a lot of changes because those times.
"There weren`t too many matches televised but now people watch women`s cricket and there are people who are aware about some of the women cricketers around the world. These are the things that have women`s cricket in the recent past to what it is now. People don`t come and ask if women`s cricket exists," she added.
Asked if there is pressure to win the cup after the men`s team won in 2011, Raj said, "A lot of people have said that the men`s team has done and the Under-19 team as well, so this is the time for women`s cricket. It is very positive but it will have to come to the practical aspect that we have to perform well that do too to win games and qualify for finals."