Mithali Raj: Practised in white jerseys to get used to it

The India women's team has had long practice sessions in the white jersey to shake off any discomfort ahead of its one-off Test against England.

In the absence of match practice, it's all about simulation and mental makeups for Team India as it takes on England in a one-off Test in Bristol on Wednesday.

The feeling of deja vu is strong ahead of India's one-off Test match against England in Bristol this week. Seven years ago, at another venue in the country, India had taken on this very opponent, with as many as eight players making their Test debuts. Led by current Test/ODI skipper Mithali Raj back then too, the Indians pulled off a remarkable six wicket win.

Cut to 2021. Raj and a young squad - most of whom are set to make their Test debut in Bristol - are up against England once more, with barely any red ball practice and much at stake.

Raj, who has only played 10 Tests in a career spanning over two decades, is sticking to the positives.

READ: England vs India women's Test - Heather Knight: Would have preferred to play on a fresh wicket

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"Competitively I've played lesser Tests. I would have liked to play more Tests. I won't get down to thinking if my game has evolved. My preparation has been going on. Talking to other cricketers who have played this format is helping me prepare for this Test," she said, speaking to reporters ahead of the Bristol Test.

Given that this squad predominantly plays white ball cricket and the tight window between travel and play, the Indian coaching staff is focusing on mental makeup of the side, particularly the youngsters.

"We did brief them about how the long format is played. For someone who is making their debut, we don't want to burden them with pressure or responsibility. Thy should enjoy playing," Raj said.

Communication is key in head coach Ramesh Powar's plans. Vice captain Harmanpreet Kaur was able to have a conversation with her male counterpart Ajinkya Rahane and Raj says these channels have been facilitated internally as well.

 

"Ramesh got the seniors to speak to other players who aren't as experienced. Jhulan (Goswami) is talking to the fast bowlers, I am speaking to the batters," she added.

"We can do our best in the nets, but it comes down to match situations. We are trying to tune their mindsets to red ball cricket. These are the preparations we have put in.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)'s social handles put up pictures of the team practising in their match day whites. Raj reveals this was part of a simulation session as well.

"There were a few sessions we had in the whites, so the girls don't (feel any discomfort) while getting out onto the field (wearing the new white jerseys) on Wednesday. There were four five sessions where we trained in the whites, so it doesn't feel alien for the girls," she added.

Before the team left for England, the India skipper was seen donning the pads. She had then said that this was to get used to wearing them on for long parts of the day and getting used to having them long for length periods of time.

The Indian women's team returns to England - four years after a historic 50-over World Cup campaign in 2017, where India finished as second best. Ask Raj if that ever crossed her mind as she goes about her business in England and she is quick to add that there's only one way to look and that's forward.

"I don't want to look back right now. I am looking forward to the series. 2017 was the last time we were here and it was quite an experience. Most of those players are in the squad. As I said, it's good to have three formats in the bilateral series. We have points too, so it's going to be exciting and we're looking forward to it."

Earlier, England skipper Heather Knight pointed out that the pitch the women were to play on was not fresh, having been used during a Gloucestershire men's Vitality Blast game last week. Requests to rework the pitch went in vain due to time constraint.

Asked if this could work to India's advantage and assist the spinners, Raj said, "We're here to play match and get a result out of whatever strip we get. We'll tune our game plan accordingly."