After having a disappointing World T20 for New Zealand and a controversial one for India last year, both the team will lock horns for a three-match ODI and the same number of T20I series from January 24 in New Zealand; where India captain Mithali Raj urged the focus to be back on cricket from all the controversies. 

India will play their first international series after the controversy regarding Mithali Raj’s exclusion from the team in the semi-final against Australia where India lost by eight wickets. Later India T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur and vice-captain Smriti Mandhana wrote BCCI in favour of then-coach Ramesh Powar and backed the decision of Mithali Raj’s exclusion; which created a rift between Harmanpreet Kaur and Mithali Raj.

Though both the captains, Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur have commented that they have moved on and sorted out the issues between them. However, Mithali said that she wanted the focus back on the cricket from the controversy.

“What has happened has happened and we should move on. Cricket has taught me to move on. No matter whether you get a 100 or a zero you have to be prepared for the next game or you tune yourself for the next day. This is what as international cricketers we look forward to and I am definitely looking forward to the series because it’s very important to get the focus back on the sport and on the 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,” explained Raj.

The three ODIs will be a part of the ICC Women’s Championship (2017-20) and will play a crucial role in terms of direct selection in the next World Cup. After having played 9 ICC Women’s Championship (2017-20) matches, New Zealand is currently in the second place with 12 points while India is in 5th position with 8 points.

If New Zealand will win the series, they will surpass Australia, placing at the top whereas if India wins, they will be placed at the second position in the Point Table. But to win the series, India need to be acclimatised to the weather and the conditions there.

“The ground dimension, we don’t think that much about it. But yes, wind will be a factor while batting, bowling or fielding. We are training accordingly so that when we get on to the field that will not be the top-most thing on to our mind, but how we negotiate it to get the best out of ourselves. We look forward to implementing it,” said Mithali Raj.

Though India reached the final of the ICC Women’s World Cup in England in 2017 and played the ICC World T20 in West Indies last year, they didn’t have a great series in New Zealand before. Only Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami have the experience of playing in New Zealand before.

“Our campaigns, be it at the World Cup or T20 World Cup, it has been an away tour. We have played in England conditions, in the West Indies, now touring New Zealand. Girls have come prepared; Most of them may be inexperienced for New Zealand conditions but otherwise the team is an experienced lot who are playing together for past 4-5 years. So I don’t think we are a troubled tourist. But yes, I look forward to acclimatising to the conditions at the earliest so that it doesn’t pose too much of a threat when we take the field,” added Mithali.

The experienced batter also expressed that the team was not that much dependent on her as they have now a strong batting line-up.

“Right now all of us are in good form. Smriti (Mandhana) or Harmanpreet Kaur or the young Jemimah (Rodrigues), all have been among the runs. We have got a very good middle order in Hemalatha (Dayalan) and Dipti Sharma, who is also an all-rounder,” further expressed Mithali. “All of us are coming from match practice, whether it is a domestic season or a couple of girls from the WBBL. We came a week early to get adapted to the conditions. We had a practice game. Girls are in great shape because we had a few outdoor nets and we are looking forward to the series.”

“So, overall, all of them at some point of the other have played match-winning innings for the team. The team doesn’t depend completely on me, but yes, as an experienced batter, I do have the responsibility to get the batting unit together to perform,” she told.

The most-capped player further claimed that along with batting, India have a strong bowling side which can pose a great threat to New Zealand.

“Spinners have always been our strength and they have bowled on different conditions and tracks and they do know how to bowl in the areas if the ball doesn’t turn. It will be a challenge but I guess that’s where the experience counts we need to battle and negotiate different tracks and that’s what the bowlers will do,” she commented.

However, New Zealand skipper Amy Satterthwaite acknowledged that India were a tough opponent but she was happy that they’re going to play the series at home soil and they will get the benefit of it.

“From our point of view, we are in a positive space and a lot of girls are playing some really good cricket and it is always a good feeling when you are coming off the back of your own summer and you are playing a lot of games. The team is feeling excited to get started and looking forward to the challenge,” added Satterthwaite.

“I think playing a series is always a good feeling. You get to play more games with the same team and you adjust as you go alone. India is a quality side and the way they have gone from strength to strength in the last couple of years. They have got some talented youngsters to complement some very seasoned cricketers, who have been playing for a long time.”

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