India Women’s focus is on playing good cricket in New Zealand: Mithali Raj
Mithali Raj is back in New Zealand after 12 years. (Image: ICC)

As one of just two members of the India women’s ODIs squad currently in New Zealand, Mithali Raj is focused on helping the team to success against their opponents and not dwelling on the tumultuous last few months.

In her first tour of New Zealand since 2006, Mithali – along with Jhulan Goswami the only current cricketer with experience there – is shaping as a critical figure, and given the controversy between her and Harmanpreet Kaur, this series marks a new beginning of sorts for an Indian team coached by WV Raman in his first assignment. Speaking to reporters in Napier on Tuesday, Mithali said the focus was on the series and not the past.

“What has happened has happened and we should move on. Cricket has taught me to move on,” she stated. “I am definitely looking forward to the series because it is very important to get back the focus on the sport and team performance and this is an opportunity for us. As professional cricketers, everybody understands what it takes to play at the international level. You are here representing our country in one-dayers and you would want to do your best and you would want the team to get together play as a unit because that is what it will give you result.” (ALSO READ: I believe I will be able to get the team together again: Mithali Raj)

Mithali, the veteran of 197 women’s ODIs, felt this team was in a good position skill-wise to push fourth-ranked New Zealand.

“Right now, all of us are in good form whether Smriti Mandhana or Harmanpreet Kaur or the young Jemimah Rodrigues who’s been among the runs. We have got a very good middle order as well in terms of Hemalatha and Deepti Sharma, who is an allrounder,” she said. “They get the bowling into the picture too. So, overall I think all of them at some point or other have played a match-winning performance for the team. The team doesn’t depend on me completely but as an experienced batter, I do have the responsibility to get the batting unit to perform.” (ALSO READ: At this stage, the India women s team can either sky-rocket or things can really go down south )

Like Virat Kohli today, Mithali knows that the conditions and smaller grounds of New Zealand as a challenge for India.

“We definitely look forward to acclimatising to the conditions at the earliest so that it does not pose that much a threat when we take on the field,” she said. “We don’t think that much about the ground dimensions but the wind will be a factor, whether it’s batting or bowling or fielding. We did speak about it. Not the topmost thing on our mind but we are training accordingly to try and manoeuvre the conditions and get the best out of it.

“Spinners have always been our strength. They have bowled in different conditions and on different tracks, and they do know how to bowl in the areas if they do not get that much of turn. It will be a challenge for them but that is where experience counts.”

The first ODI between India and New Zealand is at McLean Park on January 24, followed by matches at Bay Oval (January 29) and Hamilton (February 1) before the T20Is get started on February 6 in Wellington.