Even as much of the countrys attention will be focussed on the IPL,leading batswoman Mithali Raj will be in Delhi honing her skills playing the WCPL T20 (Womens Cricket Premier League) a club based T20 style cricket tournament at the Jesus and Mary College grounds in Chanakyapuri. Mithali,who is representing the UP Diamonds franchise,who will play their first match on Wednesday,believes that the tournament is an interesting way to get some much needed match practice ahead of the Womens T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka,later this year in May.
The Indian eves have a packed calendar this summer,with a tour to England scheduled immediately after the quadrennial event. We have a limited number of BCCI tournaments in the year. So to do well internationally,you need to get as much live practice as possible said Mithali. I played a lot of small invitational tournaments as a youngster and what I have realised is no tournament can be taken lightly.
Mitali feels that the need for practice has become all the more vital after a dismal home series against Australia last month. The 29-year-old had a best score of 18 in the fuve match T20 series,and India eventually lost 4-1. In the 3 match ODI series that preceded the T20s,she had a top score of just 30 as India were whitewashed. It was a complete disaster,individually and from the teams point of view. The World Cup and the tour of England will give us a chance to prove that we are better players than what we put on display against the Australians, she says.
While she says her ODI form was an aberration (overall she averages 46.6),she feels she needs to resolve her struggles in the shortest format of the game. I have played in 135 ODIs,so I know how to pace myself there. T20s,on the other hand,are still something that I have to get used to, she says,before adding,Personally speaking,I am not exactly the greatest fan of T20 cricket. I like the challenge of enduring a tough spell,something that gives the side a chance of bouncing back from early wickets. But T20 is the future,so I have to adapt.
Despite her difficulties in T20s,Raj admits that there will be not quarter expected when she takes the field in the WCPL T20. As a senior India player,Im expected to score a hundred or a 150 every game. The young girls also rightfully expect me to shoulder a lot of the responsibility. My team UP Diamonds is a very young side. We have one player,Kamini,who is just 12 years old, she explains. Kamini,of course,was overawed by meeting the likes of Mithali,so the 29-year old pro took it upon herself to make the very young girl comfortable in the dressing room. Thats reason enough for me to be a good role model,because girls like Kamini expect to learn how to behave as a professional from me.
One of the things the former Indian skipper says she would like to inculcate in the youngsters is the discipline to play orthodox shots,at least early in their innings. I dont like it when young kids,as young as 15 or less,try to play adventurous shots. I am old fashioned and prefer the copybook style of playing. Thats exactly what I will try and teach them, she says. But then,there is however one stroke that even an old school girl like Mithali cannot help but be fascinated by the Dilscoop,a stroke that epitomises T20 cricket. I have tried it a few times in practice but I havent had the courage to try it in an actual match. Perhaps I could try it in Delhi.