Mumbai: India One-Day International (ODI) skipper Mithali Raj on Tuesday stressed on the importance to have a pool of qualified players that can participate in an Indian Premier League (IPL)-kind of event.
“India 'A' itself need more quality players. So, once we have those many players, I think it will be wise enough to have an IPL. In the start you can feed in any player from the domestic circuit, but there will be a stark difference between the calibre of an international player and domestic rookie, which might go against the idea of promoting women's cricket. I personally believe that when you have strong domestic set-up that churns out quality players, then giving them an opportunity in IPL makes sense,” the 35-year-old told reporters.
"We just started with the India 'A' tours with formation of the 'A' team taking place last year after the World Cup. So, it will take some years to get our second-string team in place. We do have some young, talented players but they need exposure. So, I am sure in a year or two we will have a better quality of players playing for India," she added.
However, her statement is in stark contrast to what she had said after team's remarkable World Cup campaign in England. Back then, she had suggested that the time was right to "create the base" of a female equivalent of the IPL.
"If you ask me, they should have (women's) IPL because now is the right time to create that base," she had said.
'Tri-series important for the World Cup'
India, who were recently whitewashed 3-0 by Australia in ODI series, are currently preparing for the Twenty20 (T20) tri-series involving the Meg Lanning-led side and the 50-over champions England.
Mithali conceded Australia have a “superior squad”, besides being an excellent fielding unit.
"I think Australia have a very superior squad. In all three departments they have been great – they bat really deep, bowlers are quite discipline and of course they are a very good fielding side."
India will play the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean later this year, and Mithali insisted the team is looking at the “bigger picture”.
“We need to have few changes in the squad irrespective of the result, because we are looking at the bigger picture, that is we are preparing for the World Cup; so there is a chance we could see few changes in the team.
'Invest in young guns'
The Indian skipper threw her weight behind the young guns in the team, and heaped praise on 17-year-old Jemimah Rodrigues and Smriti Mandhana, among others.
“(It is) always good to track in to the Indian squad at a young age because you have those years backing you. Likewise Smriti Mandhana made an early debut, so has Deepti Sharma, and we have Jemi (Jemimah Rodrigues), who has done well in domestic season and it was the right time to give her the opportunity. She is one of those players for the future. There are Pooja Vastrakar and Tanya Bhatia too, so we have five-six young girls who have just got into the squad. We need to invest in them.”
Also present at the gathering was senior pace bowler Jhulan Goswami, who is returning from a heel injury. Goswami said she is looking forward to the T20 tri-series.
"The injury was tough time for me. I would like to thank the support staff at the NCA, who have worked hard to ensure I am fit for the T20 tri-series. I was upset (with the injury), but these things happen and they cannot be controlled. Unfortunately, the Bangalore weather was very fickle in the last few days, but I had a very good session today. I am very confident," India’s highest wicket-taker in the ODIs said.
'We have quality spinners'
The Australian spinners have caused problems to the Indian batting line-up in the recently-concluded series, while the Indians have lagged in wickets’ column in comparison to their counterparts. Mithali, however, expressed no alarming concerns regarding the efficacy of Indian spinners.
“Coming back from the South Africa tour where the wicket was different than what we have played in Baroda, there might be an issue of not having enough time to prepare well for the series. The problem is not with quality. Yes we are coming from a successful tour, but then we are playing in different situation and condition. The Australians have prepared well for us as it is only tour they have come for,” she said.
Dot balls, strike rotation and catches that went gone down
Mithali defended her teammates after not having the best of days while catching in the third ODI, where the hosts put down several chances.
"It is not like the girls do not do their homework. There are times you try to give your best but it doesn't work out that way, and you need to embrace that and keep working hard because at some point you will hit the good patch, where as a team you are going to do well.”
On the subject of Indian players’ problems with rotating strike, the captain said that the switch of formats from T20s to ODIs proved to be “little difficult” for the girls.
“The girls did find it a little difficult because it is never easy switching from one format to the other. The issue of dots balls is important and how we address that is a very individual thing,” she concluded.