She is back and so is her smile in the company of her best friend and former international cricketer Nooshin Al Khadeer. After a three-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Indian women’s cricket ODI captain Mithali Raj started practice at St. John’s Coaching Foundation in Hyderabad under the mentorship of her coach R.S.R. Murthy and K. John Manoj, secretary of the Foundation.
"I struggled a lot during lockdown even though it helped me to work on my fitness, keeping me stronger by working on small things which otherwise I couldn’t have spent enough time during a busy season," Mithali said in a chat with
Sportstar on Monday.
"There is some freshness to the game too after coming back from the long break though the buzz around is missing in this Academy as there is no one around," she said.
"But, I am trying to keep an eye on the skills aspect during practice though I am not training every day but may be twice a week," the 37-year-old Mithali said.
"When I resumed training, I thought my bat would be somewhere and the feet somewhere else. But, surprisingly, my body kept up the momentum and I was surprised with the way I was batting in the nets. Perhaps, it had something to do with the way I kept myself fit. There is lot of clarity to plan my training sessions," she explained.
“I don’t think I am struggling in terms of my strength and ability. May be, on endurance front, I might be lagging a bit behind. But, I can always work on that," the India captain said.
"So, when I reflect on resuming training, I never felt that I was coming back after such a long lay-off. Feeling 70 per cent okay which is better than to be about 20 per cent ready for the game,” she said.
“Hoping the scheduled England series is on this September if there is the desired improvement on the COVID-19 front. So, I think this is the best way to get back into the groove ahead of a likely preparatory camp too,” said Mithali.
“Yes, the next February’s ODI World Cup in New Zealand should be the biggest event for all of us (women cricketers). Thankfully, it is the safest place right now and sincerely looking forward to it,”Mithali said gently reminding that she will be playing in what could be a record sixth ODI World Cup.
Commenting on Indian women’s cricket, Mithali reiterated that she has lot more freedom in batting now as there are quite a few other batters capable of taking up the responsibility. "Definitely, it is not like as it was in 2017 World Cup when I had to shoulder the complete responsibility,” she said.
“Definitely, the BCCI is giving the kind of fillip needed to women’s cricket by organising tours for the India-A and the Emerging Players series as it is doing in men’s cricket. There are lot more opportunities now,” she said.
When asked about 16-year-old Shafali Varma and if she has an advice for the young batter, Mithali said every cricketer has their own journey where they tend to pick up crucial lessons as they grow up.
“When I started my career, there were not many distractions like TV or the social media. You cannot avoid it right now. My only advice to a young talent is to strike the right balance and stay focused on the game. This can be the biggest challenge,” the India captain said.
Any goals apart from winning the elusive World Cup trophy? “Right now, to keep scoring as heavily as possible is my goal and then I will take a call as the situation evolves,” she said.
On women’s IPL, Mithali felt the whole concept which was gaining momentum after the last T20 World Cup in Australia has taken a beating because of coronavirus. “It may take some more time now to take a definite shape,” she said.
“In all probability, we will be forced to play in front of empty o near-empty stands. But, I am sure the ICC will ensure that the women’s cricket matches will be telecast live to keep the audience engaged to the sport,” she concluded.
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