Mithali: Australia tour crucial ahead of World T20

Having last played a series in Australia in 2009, India will travel with a younger squad this time, with the exception of Mithali and Jhulan Goswami. Mithali felt the bouncy wickets will not matter much and that the forthcoming T20 series will certainly be helpful for the World T20.

India skipper Mithali Raj (left) along with coach Purnima Rao.   -  Vivek Bendre

Looking dapper in a dark blue India T-shirt, Indian women’s captain Mithali Raj, speaking at a press conference ahead of the team’s departure for a limited-over series against Australia, said the series will be crucial in the context of the forthcoming World T20 and the World Cup in 2017.

“It is important because even though we won the last series against New Zealand, we lost out on vital points. So, this tour is very important in terms of the points system.

"We are looking to qualify for the 2017 World Cup...and that requires us to be in the top-four. In that regard, these one-dayers in Australia will be equally important,” she said.

Having last played a series in Australia in 2009, India will travel with a younger squad this time, with the exception of Mithali and Jhulan Goswami.

“The last time an Indian team toured Down Under was in 2009 for the World Cup; even though we don’t have experienced players who have played in Australia, this team has been around for about two years. So, it will be an interesting and tough tour, but I think the girls will acclimatise to the conditions soon,” Mithali said.

Mithali felt the bouncy wickets will not matter much and that the forthcoming T20 series will certainly be helpful for the World T20.

“Since the last two-three years, wherever we have played, especially in T20s, it has predominantly been batting-friendly wickets. So, I don’t think it matters much.

“Australian wickets have a lot of bounce. But it should be good enough for the girls to get some exposure before the T20 World Cup. To be able to play the current world champions in their backyard, will help us to read their game as well as analyse were we stand in the format.”

On the topic of having a women’s T20 tournament, on similar lines to the IPL and the popular Big Bash League, coach Purnima Rau said the women’s game too needs to become a little bolder.

“Looking at T20 and the IPL, it has completely changed the art of batting. Women's cricket also has to sell. They have to entertain the crowds," said coach Purnima Rao.

"Players need to manufacture shots to get a lot of runs and make the game more exciting. When compared to ODIs, the girls enjoy the T20 format more, where they can play unhindered cricket," she added.

India is likely to face a stiff test from opposing captain Meg Lanning and pacer Ellyse Perry, but Mithali is up for the challenge. “Meg Lanning has been among the runs. Ellyse Perry has also been bowling very well for them. So, these are the two key players they look up to. So, we will try to strategise for these two main players as well as others. But we are confident of coming out on top,” she said.

The Indian women’s team will leave for Australia on January 19. It will kick-off its campaign with a T20 international on January 26 at the Adelaide Oval followed by the two T20Is in Melbourne on January 29 and in Sydney on Jan 31.

The three-match ODI series begins on February 2 at Manuka Oval in Canberra and culminates at Hobart’s Blundstone Arena on February 7.

ODI squad:-

Mithali Raj (capt), Jhulan Goswami, (vice-capt), Smriti Mandhana, MD Thirushkamini, Harmanpreet Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy, Shikha Pandey, Niranjana Nagarajan, Sushma Verma, Kalpana R, Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Raut, Poonam Yadav, Sneh Rana

T20 squad:-

Mithali Raj (capt), Jhulan Goswami (vice-capt), Smriti Mandhana, MD Thirushkamini, Harmanpreet Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy, Shikha Pandey, Niranjana Nagarajan, Sushma Verma, Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, VR Vanitha, Anuja Patil, Deepti Sharma.