In the Spotlight
Indian Women Team ODI skipper, Mithali Raj has said that the acrimony that followed her side's semi-final exit in the Women's World Twenty 20 is a thing of the past while acknowledging that the whole saga did "hamper" the profile of the Women's team.
"I don't know how controversies help the profile of the sport because the profile of the sport depends on how the players perform," reckoned Raj on Sunday, before her side's departure to New Zealand for their first tour in the country since 2006-07.
Raj, who had scored two fifties leading into the semi-finals, was unceremoniously dropped from the crucial encounter against England, leading to a massive controversy and a war of words between her and the then Indi coach, Romesh Powar.
"The controversy did hamper women's cricket. I believe when a lot of non-cricketing things are spoken, it's not so good, but we are getting an opportunity where we can again perform and let people talk about the team's performance, and that will only enhance the profile of the sport."
On her relationship with Harmanpreet Kaur
India's T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur and opener Smriti Mandhana had requested the BCCI to consider Romesh Powar as the coach, suggesting all was not well between Raj and Kaur, but the Indian ODI captain suggested that she and Kaur have "moved on" from the saga.
"I think both of us have moved on from there," Raj said. "I think too much emphasis has been given to that controversy. It was last year; all of us should look forward to 2019."
"At this level, every player understands what it takes to reach this level, and what it takes as a team to go on an overseas tour to aim to win the series, to gain those points. So, even though we might have differences of opinions, when we come down as players, we sit down as a team. It's always to the benefit of the team, and what works for the team is decided by everybody."
On her future
During the World Twenty 20, Mithali had stated that the team is now looking well-settled and the event would be her last World Cup in the shortest format of the game. But, on Sunday, she said she hadn't made any definitive plans for the future.
"I will take a series at a time. I don't know where I would be in two-three months from now, so I can't really predict whether I will be part of the 2020 World Cup," she said. "For me, at this juncture, this New Zealand tour is as important, very important in fact, [as to] how it goes for me and for the team, so I am only looking forward to this tour as of now. I can't predict or comment on how it's going to go in the future. That's something I've never planned; it's always been with the flow."
On working with the new coach- WV Raman
Since April 2017, three coaches- Purnima Rau, Tushar Arothe and Powar- have been ousted controversially from the Women's team. Raj reckoned that the appointment of WV Raman, whose previous experience includes stints with Ranji Trophy and IPL sides is a step in the right direction.
"I've not trained under him [Raman], but have met him a couple of times," Raj said. "If you see his credentials, his experience, and expertise, he's played and coached various teams at various levels. There are no expectations as such when you have credentials like that. You are only positive that the coach will make a big difference to the team.
On the challenges that lay ahead
On the cricket field, one of the challenges that confront Raj is her side's lack of experience of playing in New Zealand. Only two of India's current members- Jhulan Goswami [in ODIs] and Raj herself was part of the Women in Blue's last tour of New Zealand in 2006-07. India's form has also been inconsistent in the 50-over format. After reaching the World Cup final in 2017, they won the ODI series in South Africa before losing to Australia comprehensively [0-3] at home. The clean sweep was followed by a 2-1 win over England before they failed to whitewash a lowly-ranked Sri Lanka last September.