'Don't let pressure get to you'

Suresh Raina and Madan Lal, members of the World Cup winning Indian teams in 2011 and 1983 respectively, have advised the women cricketers to relax and give their best in the Women's World Cup final.

The Indian team celebrates after defeating Australia in the ICC Women's World Cup semifinal match in Derby, UK, on July 20. India faces England in the final on July 23.   -  PTI

It was more of a sleepless night for Suresh Raina and his other team-mates. They were all set to take on Sri Lanka in the final of the World Cup, that too at home, and there was no way they could shrug off the pressure.

Even before they could hit the Wankhede Stadium for the final, the excitement was hard to miss. Wherever the players went, there were fans — wishing them luck, and hoping for them to come good in the final. That was in 2011.

But Raina still remembers each and every moment of that World Cup final, which India won after 28 years. And as the Indian women cricketers, under the leadership of Mithali Raj, gear up to play England in the final of the World Cup, Raina says that instead of letting pressure mount up, the girls should visualise how it would feel to lift the trophy at Lord's on Sunday evening.

"That would definitely help the team cool off the pressure. They have overcome all the odds to come a long way, and one more evening would make their dreams come true. Instead of taking pressure, they must enjoy those few hours on the field," Raina told Sportstar on Saturday.

Before Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men took the field at the Wankhede, six years back, it was Sachin Tendulkar who had encouraged the youngsters to lift their morale. And, Raina believes that seniors like Mithali and Jhulan Goswami, too, will have to walk that extra mile to boost the team's confidence.

"Back then, Sachin told us to play a normal game, and give our best shot. We too did that. I am sure Mithali and Jhulan, too, have told their team-mates the same thing. It is really inspiring the way the women's team has come up tackling all odds," Raina said, adding that India's terrific show in the World Cup has already encouraged young girls to take up the sport. "Now, so many girls want to play for the Indian women's team. It's a great feeling," the batsman added.

While Deepti Sharma has impressed Raina with her bowling, the India batsman is excited with the way Harmanpreet Kaur had hammered the Australians in the semifinal. "I like the way she plays. She knows herself, and is aware of what she needs to do. By playing in the Big Bash League, she has improved a lot," Raina said.

But then, Raina feels that in the final, it would be skipper Mithali who would come out all guns blazing. "She will definitely play to her strength. She knows how to deliver the goods in such matches. I won't be surprised if she wins the Man of the Match award in the final," Raina hoped.

Even though he is extremely happy with the way Mithali's team has delivered the goods, Madan Lal, a member of the 1983 World Cup winning side, feels it is not right to draw a comparison between the women's final and the Cup finals in 1983 and 2011. "You can't compare. On Sunday, whatever be the result, we should only talk about girls... Let's not compare with 2011 or 1983. I will be extremely happy if they win," Madan Lal said.

Suresh Raina and Madan Lal... wishing the Indian women's team all success.

 

While he agrees that England will have the home advantage, Madan Lal believes India has enough variety to get past the host. "India has more strength in bowling. The spinners and pacers are doing well. The top half is doing well. Fielding is okay. They are managing well. The only difference is that England is playing at home. And the media pressure is on India. In our time, there was not so much media attention. I hope they don't get into pressure of expectations," Madan Lal said.

He also has an advice for the team on how to handle the pressure. "The main thing is to stay relaxed. Don't overthink. You should go to the ground and only then start thinking. The focus should not be diverted. The process has to be right," he said.

After reaching the final in 2005, the Indian women failed to clinch the World Cup. And after 12 years, as it gets ready for another major challenge, the members of the men's team, too have showered praise on social media.

One hand on the trophy, it's time for Mithali's gang to lord over Lord's!

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