Debutantes impressive, openers need to provide solid starts, says Mithali Raj

Debutantes impressive, openers need to provide solid starts, says Mithali Raj

Mithali Raj celebrates a half-century. © Getty Images

Despite the nine-wicket loss in the first ODI on Tuesday (September 21), India’s captain Mithali Raj was mightily impressed by the two debutantes - Yastika Bhatia and Richa Ghosh - for their showing with the bat against Australia. Bhatia, who came to the crease after the early loss of Shafali Verma, stuck with Raj to share a partnership of 77 runs for the fourth wicket. Meanwhile, Ghosh remained unbeaten on 32 giving the innings the finishing touch, and she was the only player from the Indian batting line-up to have a strike rate above 100.

“Yastika was quite positive when she walked in to bat number three, and so was Richa at the slot she went,” Raj said who spent most of her batting innings with Bhatia. “And as debutants, in the first game, and playing against Australia they have done really well."

"Yastika had a very good camp in Bangalore (before the series). She was among runs and she continued that even in the practice game, whatever little she scored she was quite impressive and that is why without a doubt we picked her today in place of Harman (Harmanpreet Kaur)”.

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Ghosh, who made her T20I debut against Australia in February 2020, was handed the debut cap in the 50 over format. The 17-year-old batted at seven, and she was the third-highest run-scorer for India behind Raj and Bhatia. Raj said her performance has put a thought in the head of team management to probably promote her in the batting line-up in the next match.

“It was her first game, you also want players to have some confidence in the role that they have already played. Richa has been part of the T20I squad and already has scored some runs there. So, when she is making a debut you want to give that comfort level to a player to getting to the same role that they have played and have experience. She was very impressive today and it does put a thought in our head that we could promote her up the order.”

During the match, Raj scored her fifth consecutive and 59th overall half-century in the format, but her slow personal scoring rate did affect the run rate in the middle overs for India. Indian veteran, who has represented her country for more than 22 years said she is looking to improve that factor of the game.

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“For me, batting is always about situations. If you are losing wickets on the other end, you definitely don’t want to end up scoring 150 all out. I don’t really give that much attention to the strike rate, but, yes, it is always in my mind to improve on that aspect. I want to evolve as a player and I know, I have been scoring runs, but it isn’t enough for the team to win, so there is always room for improvement," Raj added.

India lost both of their openers inside the power play as Darcie Brown struck to remove Verma and Smriti Mandhana. When Raj came to the crease in the sixth over her primary role was to rebuild the Indian batting innings and avoid wickets. India’s opening combination in ODIs is relatively new and Raj hopes Mandhana can provide the solid start they need.

“The opening partnership, if they give us the good start, clearly the middle order can take the momentum from there, but if you lose early wickets, you actually have to build an innings in the first ten overs. Smriti (Mandhana) has been in the international circuit for a while so, we would expect some runs from her (in the next matches.),” Raj concluded.

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