Mithali Raj has been a torchbearer of Indian women's cricket. The 25-year-old right-hander from Hyderabad led by example in the fourth straight Asia Cup triumph in Colombo recently, top-scoring in the tournament with 226 runs.
Returning from Colombo on Wednesday night, Mithali was amused by the hype around the Indian Premier League. "I have had just a few glimpses of the IPL," Mithali told Hindustan Times from Hyderabad.
She spoke about her team’s triumph and the positives. Excerpts:
What does the triumph mean to you?
We were expected to win, having won the previous three editions. The presence of five debutants allowed us to try out a few youngsters and see how they coped at the international level. The margins of victory were big and they boosted the team's confidence.
Didn’t lop-sided wins against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan give you false assurances?
It was Bangladesh’s maiden Asia Cup. Pakistan are very good as they have qualified for the World Cup and it was the same team that participated in the last Asia Cup. We expected a fight from Sri Lanka as they are a good side but lacked depth in batting. We are among the top four teams in the world along with Australia, England and New Zealand. The Asia Cup has done a lot of good in terms of confidence.
The coming tours will be more challenging. The pitches in England, Australia and New Zealand will be different and if we have a camp that provides similar pitches, it will help us. We are confident of winning in England as we won the Test series the last time we toured there.
What was the idea behind having new faces for the Asia Cup?
Some of the experienced players (Anjum Chopra, Nooshin-al-Khadeer, Hemalata Kala) were rested. We need good bench strength as we are approaching the World Cup in Australia next year.
The future international assignments will be outside Asia. We go to England in August-September for five ODIs and thereafter to Australia and New Zealand. We needed to experiment with the youngsters and they worked.
Being the first Indian to touch the 3000-run mark in ODIs, what do records mean to you?
I am happy, but it doesn't end here. I have a few more years left and hope to continue the good form and help the team in winning.
Jhulan became the second Indian to cross 100 ODI wickets.
Jhulan has a long way to go and I hope she continues the good form. She is the fastest bowler in the world and as we face her in domestic matches, it becomes much easier to play the Australians. It is a huge advantage.
What are the areas to improve upon?
We need to work on our fielding. In the Asia Cup, our fielders were not tested. We have to push ourselves against Australia, England and Kiwis. We have to practice our strokes against such attacks and our bowlers need to do a lot more home work against them.
We don't have a computer analyst. In the last quadrangular (in Chennai in early 2007 with England, Australia and New Zealand) we had an analyst. We might use those tapes during our camp. In the Asia Cup, our coach recorded a few of our matches so that the girls can work on their techniques.
How are the preparations for the World Cup?
The preparation has already begun with the Asia Cup. It will be a good opportunity before the World Cup to be playing these three tough opponents and especially touring Australia, the World Cup hosts.