Purnima Rau: 'Mithali has taken her game to next level'

From winning her sixth major win as a coach to praising Mithali Raj, Purnima Rau spoke to Sportstar about the Asia Cup win over Pakistan and the 2017 World Cup in England.

Mithali Raj was named the player of the tournament in Asia Cup T20 2016 final for her consistently impressive performance with the bat throughout the tournament.   -  PTI

Indian women’s head coach Purnima Rau believes that Mithali Raj, who was named player of the tournament, has taken her game to the next level with the star cricketer's sublime skills and helped the team win the Asia Cup T20 in Bangkok on Sunday.

In an exclusive interview with S portstar from Bangkok, the 49-year-old Purnima said that winning the Asia Cup was special given the fact that India had beaten Pakistan twice – first in the league phase while chasing and then in the final defending a modest target.

“If the first win was special then the triumph in the final was the icing on the cake. It has been a brilliant all-round performance with Mithali clearly being the lead performer,” she added.

On Mithali being the opener, Purnima pointed out that she always believed that the team’s best batswoman should get to face the maximum of 20 overs.

“There are no second thoughts in this regard. It doesn’t mean someone butchering the bowlers but the emphasis can be on piercing the gaps. And, Mithali clearly demonstrated she belonged to a different class once again and was the silent assassin at the crease,” the coach remarked.

On being asked whether there is some concern that Mithali continues to be the lead performer, Purnima chose to disagree saying that there have been pretty useful contributions from the likes of Veda Krishnamurthy, Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur.

“I must say that there is less pressure on the big players like Mithali and Jhulan because of the handy contributions from the others. This is one of the biggest positives for Indian women’s cricket now,” she explained.

“Essentially, the willingness of each and every player is to keep improving, the intensity in preparations in the nets, the camaraderie during the trips from hotel to the ground all paved for great team spirit and helped the team put up a collective effort,” the former India captain said.

“I must say that the spin quartet of Ekta Bisht, Preeti Bose, Anuja Patil and Poonam Yadav did a great job in the middle overs. In a T20 format it is not just taking wickets for even the number of dot balls are equally important to put pressure. I am glad that these slow bowlers complemented the pacers so well,” Purnima said.

“Overall, this has been a very good year for Indian women’s cricket and I am pleased to be part of this evolution of a successful unit since 2014. It is really pleasing that I could play my own bit in the team’s run of success of late,” she added.

For Purnima, the Asia Cup will be special as it happens to be her sixth major win as a coach. “I won’t say this is the high point of my coaching stint for I still believe beating the formidable Aussies in their backyard was truly memorable and this Asia Cup will be special for sure too,” she revealed.

Speaking about the future fixtures of the team, Purnima said: “We have the qualifiers in Colombo next February for the 2017 ODI World Cup to be held in England next May. That is the big dream we are all chasing. And, given the wonderful run we have had of late, we can realise. Yes, with the BCCI taking a final call on the venue of the preparatory camp, we are going to really work hard to achieve this one final goal."