With Mithali Raj (109) leading the way, India Women comprehensively beat New Zealand Women to enter the semi-finals of ICC Women’s World Cup 2017. Faced with a must-win situation, the Indian team put up a clinical performance to pull off a win.
Discussing the much-improved batting performance which included Harmanpreet Kaur’s timely half-century followed by Veda Krishnamurthy’s blitzkrieg, Mithali said, “Since we are back at the ground where we have played four games we are aware of the wicket and the outfield (as well). Apart from that I think the girls wanted to do well today; give their best. It is (the) one game that can get (us) through to the semis and they knew that. I am extremely happy the way the girls made a comeback.
Discussing the batting, Mithali said, “I knew that the wicket is good and there was a lot of pressure because we had lost two wickets early in the innings. It was important for me to stay till the end. If I am around, I can sense that somehow the girls are more confident to play their own game. It was important also to have the partnerships going. It happened the way we expected (required).
“I think it was important for me also to play with a bit of freedom knowing that the game can go either ways. (However) I didn’t want to burden myself with the responsibility; it is different to say (that) I feel it somewhere. Overall, I am very happy because I have not planned an innings like this but in all honesty, I have enjoyed being in the middle and getting the runs,” she said about her knock that shaped the innings.
Elaborating on the move of promoting herself to No 3 in the last couple of games she said, “When we are sending Deepti (Sharma) in to stabilise, we didn’t just want that, but also runs on the board. That is why the management decided that I can push myself up to No 3 and we can have the normal batting order. The middle-order can come into the picture when they actually are required to play the spinners than to come in to face the new ball.”
Asked about the decision of replacing the experienced Ekta Bisht with Rajeshwari Gayakwad (5/15) which paid off, Mithali explained, “Ekta definitely is an experienced spinner but when you need to slow down a bit she of course has to work more on her bowling, especially when the batters are charging at her. Rajeshwari is someone who can turn the ball, who is a little slow. They are two different left-arm spinners. It does happen that sometimes a player is not able to perform in their skill (and then) it reflects on the fielding as well so we thought to give her a break. Maybe when she gets her next opportunity she is in a better frame of mind to perform.
Asked about the advantage of playing the semi-final in Derby, the captain said, “It’s our home ground (laughs) that’s what we are told. Yes, we have played four games here so we are aware of the conditions that is our advantage, but Australia is a very good side. They are the defending champions. They have a lot of players who have played high pressure games, but for this Indian team it is going to be a big game. If we can pull one win there, I think it would be exceptional by the team.”