The mood is upbeat

Mithali Raj... “Since it is a World Cup, we cannot take any team for granted.”-Pics.T. VIJAYA KUMAR

“Honestly, we are in a tough pool that has Australia and England, but I am positive that we can qualify for the semifinals. From thereon it is anybody’s game,” says the Indian women’s team captain Mithali Raj, to J. R. Shridharan.

The captain of the Indian women’s cricket team, Mithali Raj, is in a buoyant mood ahead of the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 tournament, scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka from September 26 to October 7. At the end of the 10-day conditioning camp for the Indian probables at the Andhra Cricket Association Women’s Academy in Guntur, the 30-year-old Arjuna Award winner said that she was confident of her team putting up a good show in the island nation, which also hosts the ICC Men’s World Twenty20 tournament (September 17 to October 7). Mithali, however, says that India’s main challenge will be to qualify for the semifinals.

Excerpts from the interview:

Question: Do you think India has a realistic chance of winning the World Twenty20 tournament?

Answer: Honestly, we are in a tough pool that has Australia and England. In the shorter format, we have done reasonably well, and I am positive that we can qualify for the semifinals. From thereon it is anybody’s game. However, we are primarily focused on entering the semifinals.

How do you assess your rivals in your pool — Australia, England and Pakistan?

Australia and England are definitely better sides. Recently, we played against England in England and they seem to be in good nick. They also have a couple of players who are specialists in the shorter version of the game. We can beat Pakistan, but the format is such that any team can spring a surprise on a given day. Since it is a World Cup, we cannot take any team for granted.

How much does fitness matter in T20?

More than fitness, the emphasis should be on focus. In this format, everything is in a fast-forward mode and things happen within a stipulated time. There is hardly any time to bounce back.

Will the sub-continent conditions help India?

Yes. The conditions in Sri Lanka are similar to that in India. Since it is a World Cup, the International Cricket Council (ICC) might go in for batting strips, as it wants the batters to pile up big totals, which would lure the crowds to the stadium. All the league matches will be played in Galle, a city abutting the picturesque seashore. The breeze here will play a significant role.

What kind of team are you expecting from the selectors?

As it is the shortest version, I would like to have all-rounders who can bowl and bat according to the situation. I would like to have players who can bowl two overs and score a breezy 20 or 30. Since there is a possibility of the pitches being turners, I would like to see a couple of spinners too in the team.

India’s pace Bowlers… Niranjana (left) and Jhulan Goswami have impressed skipper Mithali.-

Who will you be banking on, the spinners or the medium pacers?

Spinners are my trump card. We also have Jhulan Goswami and Niranjana who are doing an excellent job in the pace department. We have Harmanpreet Kaur and Amitha Sharma who form the fulcrum of the batting. There are four or five girls who are doing consistently well and I, as the skipper, want them to continue their good work.

Will captaincy be an extra burden on you?

No, I am used to the pressure and as long as the team performs well, it is okay.

Your view on women’s cricket in India?

I see good prospects for women’s cricket in the country, especially this year as we have had a busy itinerary. We played against West Indies, England and Australia before the T20 World Championship. By scheduling more series, our young players can get plenty of match practice and I’m sure they’ll get into the groove in quick time.

Your views on the ACA Women’s Academy in Guntur?

This is the first exclusive women’s academy by any association in India. It has been improving its facilities ever since its inception. I was a bit sceptical when I inaugurated the academy two years ago, but the administrators have come up with the best of facilities for the players. They have the residential set-up where a cricketer can play and pursue her education.