Mithali Raj has identified spin bowling and lower-order batting as key areas of improvement as India build towards the Women’s World T20 in November. India go into the tournament seeking a change of fortunes, having suffered first-round exits in each of the last three editions, although they did make the semi-finals in 2009 and 2010.
Currently, though, they are in the middle of a highly successful tour of South Africa. Having beaten the hosts 2-1 in the ODI series, under Raj’s captaincy, they hold an unassailable 2-1 lead in the T20Is as well. Their top-order batsmen have been in sensational form, running down targets of 165 and 143 with ease in the first two games. But that in turn has left the lower order untested, and South Africa exploited this weakness especially well in the third T20I, knocking over the last five wickets for nine runs.
“I definitely want the team to do well in this format, because we’ve not really done very well in T20s, be it World Cups or bilateral series,” Raj told bcci.tv. “So that’s something I’m looking forward to this year.
“Obviously, T20 World Cup is a different format from the one-day format, and the team definitely has lot to work on in T20s. We’ve been doing well in the last two games against South Africa. There’s still work to do in preparation of the World Cup, but the team looks good, with the kind of top-order batting we have.”
West Indies, where the World T20 will take place, features a lot of slow and low pitches and as such spinners could play a very important role in the tournament. Among India’s frontline options, Poonam Yadav has had the best time in South Africa. The 26-year old legspinner was the leading wicket-taker in the ODIs and her 4 for 24 in the second game helped seal a 178-run victory. In the two T20Is, she has taken 2 for 18 and 1 for 19.
“A lot of work is needed in terms of our spin,” Raj said. “The wickets are batter-friendly and more conducive for high scoring [in South Africa], so the spinners have a lot more to work on. And the lower order needs to contribute with the bat, because not in every game the batters will score runs. Yes, we definitely want the batters to score the bulk of the runs, but sometimes, [there will be] some games where the tail needs to contribute more.”
Raj has long been one of India’s most reliable batsmen, but she has only shown patches of form on this tour. She began the tour with 69 runs in three ODIs, recovered with back-to-back fifties in the first two T20I, but fell for a duck in the third as India slumped from 93 for 2 to 133 all out.
“I’m not really satisfied, as such, but I could have done well in the one-dayers, and I’m looking to continue to be more consistent in the T20 format,” Raj said. “We have Australia and England coming up after the South Africa series, so that’s going to be a very important series because they are quality oppositions with far more quality players. We’re playing them at home. We just won the one-day series, we’ve done well in the T20s – though we’re yet to seal the series. Playing Australia and England at home is going to be challenging because they are very good sides and a lot of experience comes with them, and it’s important that I continue to score runs for the team.”