Mithali Raj in favour of fielding coach for women's team

India's captain Mithali Raj believes the addition of a fielding coach for the women's team is needed to yield better results. She also spoke about a new age group cricket begun by the BCCI, and the prospect of a women's IPL, in a chat with Sportstar.

Mithali Raj has called for India's World Cup preparations to be aided by adequate match-practice against good sides.   -  K. Murali Kumar

India's women's team captain Mithali Raj has stressed on the importance of an enhanced support staff, and in particular, a fielding coach, for the forthcoming fixtures for improved performance. To mitigate the sudden elevation of cricket's standards from the Under-19 level to the senior team, she also supported BCCI's initiative to introduce the Under-23 age group in women's cricket.

“We need a fielding coach. That is one area where we need to concentrate for better results,” she told Sportstar at ACA indoor Academy at Mangalagiri where she presently undergoing a week-long coaching stint under the watchful eyes of National Cricket Academy Level-III coach Ch. Krishna Rao.

“We have a four-member support staff with the head coach, trainer, physiotherapist and a manager. A fielding coach will lessen the burden of the head coach,” she said.

She said the ODI series against West Indies in November would be crucial as it provides an opportunity to improve the grey areas. “World Cup (ODI) in England is less than a year [from now] and our preparations should start now. Though conditions in England are different to India, [there's] nothing like getting more matches to play before World Cup, and if we get to play against best of sides, that we will give us more inputs as to where the team has to work for improvement."

The Arjuna awardee specified why having an intermediate age group - between the Under-19 and senior levels - was important. “Girls from U-19 are graduating straight to the senior team and they are found wanting in maturity. The U-23 group will help them prepare for the bigger challenges and the BCCI should groom it as a second-string team by exposing it to various alien playing conditions."

A platform to mature

The skipper felt that the time taken by young teenagers to adjust to the senior team was too long, often scuttling the progress of the national team. “For the 19-year-old it takes three to four seasons to settle down. That particular time she can spend in the U-23 team to mould into a fully-prepared player."

On an IPL-like tournament for women, Mithali felt that the marketing of the Indian players should be taken up before conceiving the format for many viewers doesn't know the 15-member national team of their country. “People hardly know two or three names. Maybe we can have mini-women's IPL before the men’s tournament to draw the attention of the viewers. The tournament will also add variety to the event."

She said she will play the second edition of the Women's Big Bash League in Australia this year.

She felt women's cricket has yet to prosper on its own and for now, it needed the support of men’s cricket. “Women cricket should thrive under men's cricket for some more time," Mithali signed off.