Mithali Raj

Mithali Raj… captain and pillar of India’s women’s team © Getty Images

Indian women cricket team’s captain Mithali Raj, born December 3, 1982, celebrates her birthday today. But more than celebrating the joyous day, the dreams of guiding India to its first World Cup glory in January next year will be uppermost in her mind.

In an exclusive interview with CricketCountry’s Aayush Puthran, she talks about India’s preparations for the cup, the 2012 Asia Cup victory and much more.

CricketCountry (CC): The preliminary 30-member Indian squad for the World Cup for the 2013 ICC Women’s World Cup, to be held in India, has been announced. How are the preparations going on?

Mithali Raj (MR): I’ve not really participated in the domestic season, so I’m not very sure. Since all the matches are in Mumbai, they will be having the camps in Mumbai. There is no point playing somewhere else when all the matches of the World Cup are going to be in Mumbai, which has the red.

CC: India’s performance in the World T20 was below par. However, the team bounced back to win the Asia Cup beating Pakistan in the final. How is the mood in the team now?

MR: We were in a difficult pool with the likes of Australia and England. We knew it was a challenge. However, it was the loss against Pakistan that really deteriorated our confidence. But it was good to beat Pakistan twice in the Asia Cup. That has done a lot of good for the girls. Ours is a young team; young in age, not in experience. The mood of the team is good.

CC: India have some outstanding individual players in the team. Apart from you, there is Jhulan Goswami, Harmanpreet Kaur and others. Despite this, Australia and England are the firm favourites to win the World Cup. Where do you think India is lacking?

MR: Our team is more suited for the One-Day format. We have the bowling attack and the depth more for a one-day format. In spite of having good players, it is very important that all of them perform and contribute. One individual player can win you a match, but not a series. To win a series or a big event it is important for everyone to contribute. At present, only two-three players are contributing, the rest aren’t. Hopefully, that will change, especially considering the fact that we have the advantage of playing at home.

CC: Do you think India not playing enough cricket against top-sides is hampering their performance in big tournaments? Does the fact that India not playing Test matches for long kept the girls away from top-quality cricket? 

MR: It is not about playing Test matches. If you are playing a One-Day format, you need to play more One-Day games. We played Australia at home, played West Indies and then toured England. Those were the only three international series. What if before the World Cup we wouldn’t have had these series? Any team or any player would want their good form to continue. If you play any international side, you would be challenged and in the process you will improve. It is a rarity that we play against international side. We have hardly played against New Zealand. England is one team we have played a few times. We played against them last year as well as this year. After the 2009 World Cup, we played against Australia this year. If you keep playing against a good side you will keep improving.

(While enjoying the small joys of life, rarely has anything mesmerised Aayush Puthran more than cricket. A student of Journalism in Mumbai, he is trying to figure out two things: ways to make Test cricket a commercial hot property and the best way to beat Mumbai traffic. He has a certain sense of obsession with novelty. He might seem confused, but he is just battling a thousand demons within his mind. Nonetheless, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of coffee!)