The mood is upbeat

Mithali Raj… all set to make amends for the defeat in the 2005 World Cup final.-T. VIJAYA KUMAR

“Winning the World Cup is a dream. Dhoni’s team did it in Mumbai in 2011. So, why not us?” says Mithali Raj, the captain of the Indian team that is gearing up for the women’s World Cup in Mumbai later this month. By V.V. Subrahmanyam.

Going by the sheer weight of her performances, Mithali Raj can be called the face of Indian women’s cricket. And at 30, she is not in the mood to look back. She is not basking in the glory of her magnificent achievements that include scoring the then world record individual Test score of 214, smashing a ODI century on debut and guiding India to its fourth Asia Cup title last year. She is not even giving much importance to the fact that she is the No. 1 batswoman in the world in ODIs. “What has happened is history now. It is time to focus on the biggest challenge for all of us (woman cricketers) as India hosts the World Cup in Mumbai from January 31,” says Mithali in a chat with Sportstar.

“Nothing can beat the satisfaction of winning the World Cup. Whatever we have achieved until now will take a back seat if we realise our biggest dream of winning the World Cup this time. So, I look at it as a huge opportunity to not only win the World Cup but also give a new dimension to the sport (women’s cricket) in India,” she says.

“Winning the World Cup is a dream. Dhoni’s team did it in Mumbai in 2011. So, why not us?” says Mithali, flashing a big smile.

However, on a more serious note, the Indian captain says that India’s fortunes depend on how its batsmen and fast bowlers click on sporting wickets that are expected for the World Cup.

“Honestly, the spinners might not play that big a role considering the hints we have about the kind of wickets being prepared for the World Cup. I am told that they will not certainly be the old Indian wickets. Maybe, everyone wants batsman-friendly pitches,” says Mithali, who is the second highest scorer (after Charlotte Edwards of England: 4783 runs) in women’s cricket with 4490 runs (three centuries and 36 half-centuries) from 141 ODIs.

For someone who will be playing her fourth World Cup, Mithali says, “The only difference for me personally is that I will be leading the team at home. I hope there will be big crowds for all the matches. We badly need that kind of support.”

Talking of her team’s chances, Mithali says, “Let me reiterate; it is a team game and we need to click as a unit and make optimum use of the home advantage to make an impact.

“Personally, it is a huge honour to lead India. At the same time, it does not mean that I will be under pressure because of high expectations while playing at home. The team is shaping up well and I hope it will do really well.

“I know it is important for me to bat as long as possible if my team is to do well. That will be my first objective, for that will help the others to play freely and consistently.”

Throwing light on the challenges in store for India at the World Cup, Mithali says, “Well, the format this time around should help us a lot (the eight teams in the fray have been split into two groups and the top three from each group will play in the ‘Super Sixes’ to decide the finalists). No doubt, every match is important, and consistency should be the key for any team. We are aware that England and Australia along with New Zealand are the biggest threats. But, if we put in the effort, we should not be far behind.”

The Indian captain also believes that the World Cup would do a world of good to women’s cricket in India in terms of marketing and branding. “The onus is on us to come up with special performances and showcase our skills on the biggest platform for the sport itself,” says Mithali.

“We have always been somewhere there, but not quite there. The loss in the final of the 2005 World Cup continues to be a huge disappointment for all of us. So, I feel it is time to make amends and since we are a much better one-day side we should be able to do this,” the Indian skipper says.