The Indian women’s One-Day International (ODI) team is keen to perform well at next year’s World Cup and the tour of Australia will serve as ideal preparation for the mega event, captain Mithali Raj and coach Ramesh Powar said on Saturday.
The Indian team is leaving for Australia on Wednesday (September 1) to play three ODIs, a day-night Test, and three T20Is.
“We need to understand that we are playing three ODIs first and we are focusing right now on the World Cup preparations,” Powar said during a pre-departure press conference, even as questions revolved around the pink-ball Test against Australia.
“Regarding the one-off Test match, we have to carry our one-day confidence into the Test match. We don’t have to prepare separately as we back our players in all formats. We try to inculcate how we should approach every format.”
‘Playing against the best’
India’s Australia tour begins with the ODI series, which starts on September 19 at the North Sydney Oval, followed by the second and third matches at the Junction Oval on September 22 and 24, respectively.
The women’s 50-over World Cup is slated to be held in New Zealand in March-April next year.
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Skipper Mithali said, “We know the areas we needed to improve on and we worked and addressed those issues during the preparatory camp in Bangalore.
“Whatever results are there in Australia, we still have a few months for the World Cup. Australia tour is good for us because we are playing against the best, we will also get an idea about the team combination before the World Cup. So Australia tour is a good game plan before the World Cup.”
Strengthening pace attack
In his second tenure as the women’s national team coach, Powar said the team management was hoping to strengthen the fast bowling unit in order to reduce the burden on veteran Jhulan Goswami.
“We are looking for consistency in fast bowling so that Jhulan can express herself, else she will be forced to become defensive and we don’t want that situation,” Powar said.
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“We have to have support for Jhulan Goswami, we need to find her a partner so that she can bowl in partnership. We are focusing on Meghna Singh and we are looking forward to Pooja Vastrakar also. Once the selectors and team management decide on the final 20-25 players, we stay on the same page when we go into a series,” he added.
Seam bowlers Meghna and Renuka Singh Thakur got their maiden India call-ups, while left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad returned to the teams for the upcoming contests against Australia.
Mithali acknowledged that the pink-ball Test would be a challenge for the players.
“It is going to be big because most of the questions are revolving about the pink ball than one-day cricket. The challenge would be more playing under lights. And also playing with the pink ball as we are all used to the red cherry. We have got feedback from the men.”
Mithali said a tour of Australia continued to be one of the toughest in international cricket.
“We don’t go into a match with a set mindset as it depends on the situation. We want our team to go with a lot of confidence, without thinking about the grey areas.
“We know that we are playing the best side in the world and we will need to bring our ‘A’ game. But we are also very fortunate to have a camp of some 30 girls, with match simulation, matches under lights, we have pretty much done whatever we could with our preparation,” Mithali said.
The city of Perth will host the pink-ball one-off Test scheduled from September 30, followed by the T20Is at the North Sydney Oval on October 7, 9, and 11.
“Looking at the current situation, we are happy to go to Australia and keep playing cricket. After England, we had a one-month break and we back ourselves to do well. We have played enough in the Bangalore camp and are prepared for any format,” Powar said.
According to recent reports, the Indian team’s schedule in Australia could be altered due to border restrictions and COVID-19 lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne. Asked about it, Powar said, “We are looking forward to a tour which is challenging and we all are excited to go there and put in our best effort to make it a good tour.”