Cricbuzz Staff •
ODI captain Mithali Raj stressed that both – she and Harmanpreet Kaur – had moved on from their controversial fallout © Getty
For the first time since 2006, India Women are set to play a series in New Zealand. It’s a country that India have toured several times in the past but not in recent history. And when they set foot again, with no one barring Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami having had the experience of playing in Kiwiland, they will be up with a stiff task amidst a dramatic backdrop of what has transpired within their cricket in the last two months.
A three-nil series loss at home against Australia followed by a three-wicket defeat against Sri Lanka has left them reeling at fifth position with only 8 points from 9 games in the ICC Women’s Championship. With only the top four teams securing a direct qualification to the 2021 World Cup, they are in desperate need of wins to strengthen their chances. “I do understand that the home series against Australia hasn’t gone well for us,” Raj said ahead of 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.”
Mithali may have experienced the conditions earlier but believes it will be a fresh challenge for her as well. “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,” the Indian skipper said. The two teams will be playing their three ODIs in Napier, Mount Maunganui and Hamilton, followed by a three-match T20I series in Wellington, Auckland and Hamilton.
Even as the rest of the squad will be having its maiden experience of cricket in New Zealand, WV Raman – the newly appointed head coach – believes it won’t be as bad a news as it sounds in India’s bid to attempt a series win. “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.
“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 will be landing in New Zealand 10 days prior to the start of the series to acclamitize themselves to the conditions, in order to get the best possible advantage over the hosts. “The conditions will be different,” Mithali admitted. “Getting us those early few days [in New Zealand] will give us that advantage of getting into the series with better preparation.”
Apart from just their cricket, one of the key issues to be addressed is how the team adapts after the public fallout between two of its senior players – Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur. It will not only be an issue to be dealt by the two players but also for the coach to quickly find solutions in order to maintain a positive environment.
The Indian skipper, however, said that as part of being in a professional setup, both the players understand the larger goal of the team and are over their personal differences.
“We did meet up after what has happened. Both of us have moved on from there,” she 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.
New Zealand may be sitting pretty at the second spot, trailing leaders Australia by 4, on the championship table with 12 points from 9 games but their game has stuttered a bit after the Ireland tour. On the contrary, India – despite some wobble – have shown improvement. However, New Zealand, at home, won’t be an easy opposition as they look to give themselves a fresh start after a disappointing World T20 campaign.