India’s tour of New Zealand presents a new opportunity for the women’s team to move on from the controversy surrounding their semifinal exit at the ICC Women’s World T20. After the exit, the team witnessed some unsavoury scenes surrounding coach Ramesh Powar and allegations of disrespect aimed at veteran Mithali Raj which also saw skipper Harmanpreet Kaur and vice-captain Smriti Mandhana dragged into it. With a supposed clean slate, India shift focus to New Zealand with Raj and Harmanpreet sharing the dressing room once again and a new coach in WV Raman in charge. For the team, it presents an opportunity to lift themselves from fifth place in ICC Women’s Championship points table in first tour of New Zealand since 2006.
“What has happened has happened and we should move on. Cricket has taught me to move on,” Mithali said on Tuesday. “I am definitely looking forward to the series because it is very important to get back the focus on the sport and 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.”
India’s tour of New Zealand begins on Thursday with the first ODI at McLean Park. The team will go on to play three ODIs and as many T20Is across the tour. Mithali emphasised on the need to bring the focus back on cricket with a win in New Zealand a step in that direction. “This is what as international athletes and cricketers we look forward to, and I’m looking forward to the series because it is very important to get back the focus on the sport and on the team performance and this is a great opportunity.”
Asked how the team will deal with foreign conditions, Mithali said the side has prepared well. “Most of the team might be inexperienced to the New Zealand condition but otherwise we are an experienced lot that has been together for 4-5 years. So I don’t think we are a troubled tourists but yes we look forward to acclimatising with the conditions.”
“All of us our coming from the match practice weather it is playing in the domestic season or couple girls are coming from the WBBL and he (coach) has just joined it’s his first series.
“We have arrived one week early to adapt to the windy conditions, we had a practice game and the girls are in good shape,” she added.
Mithali said the wind will affect the team in all three departments but stated they have been working on getting acclimatised to the conditions. “We are training accordingly so when we get on the field it’s not the only thing we are thinking of,” Mithali said.
“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 added.
Mithali also stressed that as the captain and the most experienced player she will bring the team together against the ‘White Ferns’. “Right now all of us are in a good form, Smriti, Harmanpreet or young Jemimah Rodrigues – all are amongst runs. We also have a good middle order in Hemlata and Deepti Sharma of them have played a match winning performance for the team.
India don’t have a great record when playing away but Mithali thinks that the team has come a long way with performances in the recent ICC tournaments there for everyone to see. “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 though for New Zealand conditions they might be inexperienced, otherwise the team is an experienced lot who has been together for 4-5 years. I do not think we are ‘troubled tourists’.”
India tour of New Zealand fixtures:
1st ODI at McLean Park, Napier on January 24 at 6.30 AM
2nd ODI at Bay Oval on January 29 at 6.30 AM
3rd ODI at Seddon Park, Hamilton on February 1 at 6.30 AM
1st T20I at Westpac Stadium, Wellington on February 6 at 8.30 AM
2nd T20I at Eden Park, Auckland on February 8 at 8.30 AM
3rd T20I at Seddon Park, Hamilton on February 10 at 8.30 AM