Mithali Raj. © Getty Images

Mithali Raj, India’s ODI captain, said teams no longer take them lightly on the world stage and that India are now considered genuine challengers no matter whom they play against.

“Teams don’t take us lightly anymore and come prepared for us,” Mithali was quoted telling Sportstar in an Instagram live session. “Consistently beating the best sides in the world – be it Australia in the ODIs or England in the T20s – has given us the confidence that we too are a side to beat.”

The ‘Women in Blue’ have managed to reach the knockout stages of three consecutive ICC events – including two finals in 2017 and 2020. The first of those was the title clash in the ODI World Cup in England in 2017, before, more recently they clashed with Australia in their maiden T20 World Cup final earlier this year. In both events, India managed to beat top teams like Australia and England and are proving their mettle not only at home but overseas too. Mithali feels the team has evolved a lot after the gut-wrenching nine-run loss in the 2017 World Cup final.

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The ODI skipper also lavished praise on India’s bowling which stood out in the T20 World Cup, largely carrying them into the final. India managed to consistently defend par totals, their spinners coming to the fore in Australian conditions.

After a couple of years where the focus has been largely on the young crop of batters coming through the ranks, Mithali said she was happy to be speaking about the contribution of the bowlers.

“In the last few years, our bowlers have done so well. They took us into the final of the World T20 in March. From speaking of the impact of a batter’s innings, I am so glad and proud to be speaking of the bowlers, especially our spinners doing well on Australian wickets in a format we have struggled in for so long,” she said.

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With the Indian players all cooped up inside their homes through the coronavirus lockdown, Mithali said the team has been in constant touch with head coach WV Raman and the trainer to make sure they are all finding ways to stay in shape. The 37-year-old is well aware that, for her, this period is particularly crucial.

“Fitness, at my age, is something I need to consciously and constantly keep up. I know I can’t forget my skill – I still have some batting in me. I might need a few sessions to get my rhythm going.”

“Some of us have running space while others like me have to manage within the restricted spaces indoors, so our trainers are adapting routines for us. Raman sir is trying to be creative with our skill training regimen. It is difficult because irrespective of how much we train indoors, we need to get out onto the ground to be fully prepared,” she added.

India were meant to tour England in July this year, but the series has been indefinitely postponed with all the uncertainty surrounding travel restrictions around the world.