By Indian Cricket Fever
December 7 2016
India won its 6th Women's Asia Cup title in as many editions. It is a mighty impressive show which indicates the strength of women's cricket in India compared to other Asian countries. The key figure in recent championships has been and was once again India's Mithali Raj.
As she set up the game for India Women in the final against Pakistan in the ACC Women’s T20 Asia Cup, Mithali Raj was elegant as ever. Opening the innings for the defending champions, she shaped the innings with a watchfully compiled 73 not out off 65 balls after Harmanpreet Kaur elected to bat.
While Indian innings had its share of ups and downs, Mithali guided the team to a competitive total. Speaking about shaping the innings with little support from the other end, the experienced campaigner said, “It was not a T20 wicket and it was not a wicket where any player or strokemaker could just come and get runs. You needed to spend some time in the middle, unfortunately the format is such it doesn’t give you much time so all you had to do was take singles and rotate the strike. But somehow the girls were not able to do that, and that’s why at a certain stage when I lost Veda (Krishnamurthy on 73/3 in 12.6) and Harman (on 89/4 in 16.2 overs), I had revised the total I had in mind and brought it down a little,”
“I had decided to change my game in the 15th over but as soon as Harman got out I had to (ensure that I stay there) take another three-four overs before accelerating. I knew that if I don’t stay till the end, we won’t get those last few runs that we got in the last few overs,” she explained.
Asked what was the total that they were looking at when she came into bat, Mithali replied, “I was sure that a minimum of 120 runs was required on this wicket in the final. Anything beyond that would be very good for the team. Anything around 90 or 100 would not have been enough to win a game.”
The opener then went on to add, “When I went in to bat. I was quite confident that I will get the right opening stand and a right start for the team. Since we had elected to bat first, it was a fresh wicket, it was a good wicket (although) it deteriorated later. But since it was a fresh wicket, the ball came on much easier in the first six overs, so I had to get as many runs as I could in the first six overs. I never played any predetermined shots. I went in with the kind of preparation, which I usually do for any game and played on the merit of the ball.”
As she held fort, Mithali posted her highest score in T20Is. Speaking about opening the innings and her match-winning knock, she said, “I decided to open in T20s in 2014. When I had a good run against Sri Lanka at home in the one-day games, I thought I would be an ideal opener because I had a good one-day tournament and I could get the form into the T20. There I scored around two 50s so that gave me more confidence and it worked for the team. They were searching for an opener and Purnima (Rau, Indian coach) was happy to send me out to open. Again, I opened in the 2014 World T20 in Bangladesh. I have done very well as an opener so since I have been continuing to open for India in the T20 format.
“I am flexible to push myself down the order also depending on what the team’s requirement. In this tournament in the main games against - Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - in the group stage I opened and it gave me a lot of experience to play on a slower track in this tournament.” Her impeccable performance earned her the twin awards - Player of the match and also the series. Reflecting on the accomplishment, Mithali said, “I have been consistent so I am quite happy that I have got the player of the tournament and the player of the match. All those not so good memories of the World Cup I have finally crossed that and overcome it. It took all of us quite a while to overcome the defeat in the World Cup. Though for unfortunate reasons, but a defeat is a defeat. We won against them in the group stage, but then again, it wasn’t very convincing. Knowing the fact that the Indian team is much better than what we have played in the last two –three games against Pakistan, it was imperative that we put up a far better show in today’s game.”