Mithali Raj said she and Harmanpreet Kaur both have moved on and expects WV Raman will ‘make a big difference’.
India are all set to face New Zealand for three-match ODI and the same number of T20I series from January 24. After 13 long years, for the first time since 2006, they are going to play there. Apart from ODI captain Mithali Raj and pace spearhead Jhulan Goswami, no other India players have the experience of playing there before.
India lost all the three matches at home against Australia last year in March; which followed by a three-wicket defeat against Sri Lanka in September. Currently, they are at the fifth place with 8 points from 9 matches in the ICC Women’s Championship (2017-20); whereas New Zealand is in the second place with 12 points.
As only top four teams get the chance to a direct qualification to the 2021 World Cup, they are desperate to win the series.
“I do understand that the home series against Australia hasn’t gone well for us,” Raj said in the press conference prior to the team’s departure to New Zealand on Sunday, January 13. “This series, in that perspective, is very very important for us, if we can get six points.”
While talking about the experience of playing in New Zealand before, Mithali said that it will be a new fresh challenge altogether.
“Jhulu (Jhulan Goswami) and I have last toured New Zealand in 2006. Over these years, things in New Zealand also would have changed. We have only played in Auckland and Christchurch. We haven’t played at other places that we are touring this time. So that will be a first experience for us after so many years,” Mithali said.
Both the teams will play their three ODIs in Napier, Mount Maunganui, and Hamilton respectively while the three-match T20I series will be played in Wellington, Auckland, and Hamilton.
"The coach will make a big difference to the team" – Mithali Raj is ready for a "fresh start" under WV Raman.
— ICC (@ICC) January 14, 2019
As the rest of the squad will have their maiden experience of playing in New Zealand, the newly appointed head coach, WV Raman believes that it could go in both ways.
“There are two ways of looking at it. One is of course, the entire team hasn’t been there, which means that they can always go with an open mind and play without any fear.” Raman expressed. “The other side of the coin is that New Zealand will see a lot of unknown quantities. That can always be a dangerous thing in cricket even if they have the advantage of being the home team.”
India has left for the New Zealand 10 days earlier just to acclimatize with the conditions there.
“The conditions will be different,” India ODI Skipper admitted. “Getting us those early few days [in New Zealand] will give us that advantage of getting into the series with better preparation.”
Last year Mithali’s exclusion from the World T20 semifinal match against England in Antigua led to the differences between her and Ramesh Powar (then coach), as well as India T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur. However, the Indian skipper in limited-overs said that she and Kaur, both of them have moved on from that incident and for them, the team comes first over their personal differences.
“We did meet up after what has happened. Both of us have moved on from there,” Mithali said. “Too much emphasis has been given to that controversy. It happened last year. All of us should look forward to 2019. At this level every player understands what it takes to reach this level and what it takes as a team to play in an overseas tour, to aim to win the series, to aim to gain those points.”
“Even though we might have difference of opinions but when we sit down as players and discuss, it is always for the benefit of the team and what works for the team is what is decided by everybody and I believe that, as the ODI captain, it is important for me to get the team together and important that we perform as a unit. Because individual brilliance will win you matches but if you’ve to win series, you need every core member of your team to perform and that performance has to complement the team’s goal. That’s what I believe will get the team again and that’s what we’re going to work on,” Mithali further added.
While talking about the coach WV Raman, Mithali said that his experience will make a big difference.
“When a coach comes in the national side, we as a team are very vocal and expressive as to what is required for the benefit of the team. The coach and the players will have to be on the same page because that’s very important.”
“And I am sure. I have not trained under him (Raman) but met him couple of time and if you seen his credential. He has played (at the highest level) and coached various teams at various levels,” she further added. “So he comes with that and there are no expectations as such when you have credentials like that, you are only positive that the coach will make big difference to the team, getting in to the year and to the series.”
Mithali also acknowledged that all coaches have played crucial roles in shaping up the team.
“I honestly believe every coach like how very captain has a very different take, they get very different perspective to the table, so does the coach. The team what it is today, is because of all those various coaches, who trained the team in these years, the team has come so far and his (Raman) knowledge will only benefit the team to go further and above, to move forward,” she added.
It wouldn’t be easy for India to defeat New Zealand at their home soil where their two key players Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine are in a great form in the ongoing Women’s Big Bash League. After a disappointing World T20 campaign, they will surely give a tough fight to India. For India, T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur and her deputy Smriti Mandhana too are among runs in the ongoing Women’s Big Bash League; which will play an important role in India’s win. Now it will be interesting to see who will have the last laugh!