Mithali Raj impressed with debutantes, wants at least one Test every series

Women's CricZone Staff
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Mithali Raj impressed with debutantes, wants at least one Test every series

Mithali Raj after the Test match against England in Bristol. ©Getty Images

Mithali Raj was one proud captain after her team managed to draw the one-off Test match against England at Bristol County Ground. A memorable fightback from debutants Sneh Rana and Taniya Bhatia ensured that India maintained their unbeaten record against England away from home.

Playing a Test match after a long break of seven years, Raj reflected on some of the lessons from this Test match.

“(The biggest learning is that) other players can stand up and deliver for the team when required," she said after the final day's play.

"After the collapse in the first inning, the lower middle order like Rana, Shikha Pandey, and Bhatia has played a very crucial role. Deepti Sharma stood out in both innings along with Shafali. These girls have shown that even with a lack of practice with a red ball they stood up in this Test match to perform for India.”

Sharma was unbeaten on 29 in the first innings despite the collapse and was promoted to number three in the second innings. She responded with a patient half-century. Raj knew the importance of that promotion.

“She remained not out in the first innings and showed good form. She also looked settled among the batters. It was a collective decision of me and the Head Coach (Ramesh Powar) to send her at three. She did play her role very well.”

Raj has been the captain of the Railways side which debutant Rana represents in the Indian domestic setup. Impressed with the overall performance she said, "She is coming back to the Indian side after five years. But, she had a couple of good domestic seasons behind her. I think, she played very sensibly with Taniya (Bhatia) and Shikha Pandey. That partnership (with Pandey) was very crucial for us at that stage. I am mightily impressed with all the debutantes.”

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Shafali Verma, player of the match on her debut Test, was the toast of the town. Her captain was also impressed with the way she adapted to the longest format at such young age. Raj elaborated on the reason why Verma was presented with her cap.

"We know (Verma) has a range of shots and she can be very effective in this format like this when she gets going. Once we knew that, it’s a used wicket and there won’t be much of a movement we thought it would be a good time to give her the Test debut. And she lived up to it. Her fifty in the second innings came with a sorted head and experience. She beautifully adapted to this format."

India’s approach of selecting two off-spinners surprised many. But, with a lack of dedicated preparation before the tour, there were some limitations.

“It was important for us to pick spinners who have been doing well, because we did not have a camp or tournament befor ethe team was picked," Raj explained. "Sneh was bowling well with Deepti. And we wanted to lengthen our batting order. England do have one of the best left-arm spinners in their side so clearly, they would be playing a lot of left-arm spin. So we thought, why not feed in two off-spinners.”

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England captain Heather Knight when asked about the possibility of a five-day Test match for women said she would love to see that happen soon. Taking that discussion forward Raj added, “It’s a good idea to have a five-day Test. But, we have to start (having) a Test match regularly. Having a Test match featured in a series is important. And then maybe it can go to five days. With a five-day Test, there are more chances of a result than a draw.”

India will play three ODIs and three T20Is against England as part of the tour starting June 27 at Bristol. Raj believes her team has gained the much-needed confidence from the Test match leading into the ODI leg.

“Psychologically big boost for India ahead of the ODIs. It will definitely put England on the back foot knowing that India’s lower-middle order can perform. The Indian batting line-up goes deep now and it’s not just a top-order. This is a great way to start a series where we were at the situation where we were literally looking at a Test match loss and from there we come to a draw. That really shows that girls are not ready to give up,” she concluded.