Colombo: Watching the Indian women’s cricket practice can be quite boring. The ball just doesn’t reach the boundary line often enough but then again, the challenges of the women’s game are very different. They don’t depend on power but on timing and in that sense, it retains a purity that the men’s game has lost.
India begin their World T20 campaign against Australia tomorrow and Firstpost caught up with skipper Mithali Raj for a tete-a-tete on all issues related to Indian women's cricket.
You have not been playing Tests at home. So does the fact that you are playing only ODIs and T20 cricket help at a tournament like this?
We don’t really have to work on the mental aspect as we do when we play Test cricket. ODIs and T20 are pretty similar – in fact for someone who plays a lot of T20, even ODIs will seem like a Test. For someone who plays a lot of ODIs, it’s more like come and go cricket. It’s more to do with mindset but I guess Test game is completely different.
How do you train for T20? Is it a lot of range-hitting… a lot of teeing off?
Well, honestly, in women’s cricket we don’t have the kind of physique to clear the ground very often as we get to see in men’s cricket. But there are some players who hit the ball very hard and if you see some of the West Indies players, they are really big. So I guess women’s cricket will probably catch up to the men’s T20 version in a few years’ time.
So is the team doing a lot of strength training to get that ability to smash the ball out of the park?
How much ever we try and put in effort, we will still be small because we are Asians. So can’t really do much about it. We can only work on our timing which is something that will help you for a longer period. We do the normal weight-training that cricketers do. We can’t train like weight-lifters – definitely not.
According to you, how good is the Indian team?
Some of our individual players are ranked pretty high but that’s not an indication of how good the team is. We don’t really have team rankings at the moment but every once in 4 years we play the World Cup and in between the top four teams play the quadrangular – rankings in our minds are pretty much based on that.
If you want to make women’s cricket popular, what do you think should be done…
Honestly, I think we should be having more international series in a calendar. Because of the World Cup, we get to play 3-4 series but after that it’s just 2 series in the whole year and they are so wide apart – one at the start and one at the end – that it becomes difficult for people to follow them. It even becomes difficult for players to carry the momentum from one series to the other. We are all always making a fresh start.
Do you feel that the players need to become well-known for the sport to catch on?
Well, it’s true but how are you going to market them? One option could be that while say the men’s team is having a bi-lateral series like India versus Pakistan, we could also have a women’s series at the same time. It will give us vital experience and help the sport as well.
That would attract media coverage and more people would be curious to know what’s happening with women’s cricket. Mostly in England, they do that and they have got to a level where women’s cricket is very popular.
So is it wise to the women’s tournament coinciding with the men’s?
In a sense, it’s good because there are people who follow women’s cricket. On the other side, it means that we won’t get too much coverage because it’s mainly focussed on the men’s side of the tournament. It has its own pluses and minuses.
How far are we in terms of being able to compete with Australia and England?
There is a vast difference in the domestic standard. Usually when a domestic player comes up to the international level, there is a huge difference to fill. Whereas, when we go to England and play the second string, there is hardly any gap to fill. So that’s something that we’ll have to work on.
One final question, how do you rate your chances in this tournament?
Well, our bowling attack is pretty good for the conditions but our batting needs work. England and Australia are probably favourites to go through. But we will be giving it our best shot.