India skipper Mithali Raj assumes too much importance to the strike rate. She wants her batters to focus on playing knocks and sewing partnerships to lead the team to victory.
With the 2022 Cricket World Cup coming in New Zealand, Mithali gave an example of Australia’s Beth Mooney’s unbeaten knock of 125. She started slow and then revved to win the match for her team as a template for the Indian batters to follow.
“I think there isn’t too much importance given to strike-rate by all? It is always spoken when it comes to batting or putting up big totals. I just wanted to know if you all follow the strike rate of Indian players or players from all around the world? If you might allow me to enlighten, in the Australia series itself, the decider game which Australia won, Beth Mooney scored her 50 in 80-odd balls,” said Mithali in the pre-departure virtual press conference.
“But she went on to play a match-winning innings for her team. As for me, I believe that cricket is a game played on the situations on the ground, and yes, it is important we keep in mind that we need to have a healthy strike rate. But at the end of the day, it is about how the batting unit revolves & the depth of the batting unit in our team,” added Mithali.
She further explained, “When we have to score 250-270, we need to have a healthy strike rate, but having said we will not entirely focus on strike rate, it is important to play an innings to win and build partnerships. That happens not because of strike rate but because you apply & play according to the situation on the ground.”
“Sometimes, you have to play fast, but sometimes you have to play to get your team out of a hole too. There will always be areas to address, any team. no team is perfect, and we will be looking to post a total of around 250-270 consistently, and that requires a top-order to score runs and be consistent.”
India will depart for New Zealand on January 24 to play a T20I and five ODIs against the hosts’ before attempting to win their first World Cup trophy after being runners-up in 2005 and 2017. Mithali pointed towards contributions from the lower-middle order being a positive for the team.
“Something which we were quite happy about is the contribution of our lower-order, like Jhulan and Pooja Vastrakar, not only perform with the ball but with the bat as well. Then there’s Sneh Rana, who’s performed with both ball and bat. So, it is excellent to see the lower-middle order contributing. So, that helps to have a depth in the team and smaller tail, I would say.”
Talking about young pacers Meghna Singh and Renuka Singh Thakur, Mithali felt the duo would perform well with support staff and veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami around. “They might lack the experience, but Meghna has done well in the Australia series. I guess Jhulan is an experienced bowler in the set-up. She worked very well with the youngsters in the series, and as far as Renuka is concerned when I saw her in the Australia series, she came across as somebody who is very competitive.”
“She had an excellent domestic season with wickets. It’s important to give players an opportunity when they are in rhythm and performing. I am sure they will do well with the support staff we have and having Jhulan; I am sure she will be sharing her experiences of bowling in these conditions with the youngsters who will respond very positively.”
Life has come full circle for Mithali, who first featured in the World Cup in 2000 in New Zealand and will lead India in her sixth appearance in the mega event. “I think it has been a wonderful journey, not an easy one. There have been struggles, too, but there have been good times as well. I think it has come a full circle, my first World Cup was in 2000 in New Zealand, and here I am flying to New Zealand for my sixth World Cup.”
“In the 2000 World Cup, India played the semi-finals and lost, but this time I hope that India plays the finals and wins because winning the World Cup is very special for any cricketer, and I am no different. That is something that has always driven me since I played my first World Cup, and it still drives me to win that for India.”
The 39-year-old signed off by being tight-lipped about playing future post the World Cup. “Well, let’s see how things go there. But right now, my focus is for these two months. That is something I am looking to put my full focus and energy into the series and World Cup.”