Mithali Raj, India Women cricket team captain, applauded the all-round efforts from her team after their 72-run demolition of Bangladesh Women in the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 opener in Bengaluru and said that the team will look to carry forward the momentum from here on.
"As batters we want to use the first six overs to give the team a good start, which we did. Though we lost a few wickets in the middle, Harmanpreet (Kaur) and Veda's (Krishnamurthy) innings got us back to post 160-plus total. We were expecting some showers at the start of our bowling, so it was crucial that we don't leak runs in the first five overs. It worked for us, and since then the bowlers bowled a tight line," the skipper told media after her team got off to a winning start in the World T20 on Tuesday (March 15).
Raj, who top scored for India with 42, became the highest run-getter in World T20, with 583 runs under her belt. The 33-year-old Indian skipper spoke highly of Vanitha Vellaswamy, with whom she shared a 62-run stand, saying that her promotion to the opener's slot since the Australia series has helped the team push for more attacking cricket up front.
"If your batters are going to go after the bowling in the first six overs, there is an amount of risk involved. Vanitha did well against Australia in Australia. We tried tried to use her in that role (as an opener) against Sri Lanka, and she has given us results. With this plan, even if you lose a wicket, we know we have a proper stable batsman coming in at No. 3." Raj said when asked about the rationale behind having Smriti Mandhana bat one-down.
Meanwhile, Harmanpreet Kaur, who provided the impetus in death overs to help India to their best T20I total of 163 for 5, believes that a settled batting order over the last couple of years has considerably taken the pressure off the seniors, especially Raj. "Two years back, we were missing openers but now we have Vanitha (Vellaswamy) and Smriti (Mandhana) who have been performing well. Now, we don't have so much pressure on ourselves. We were totally dependent on Mithali before. But even if she doesn't perform today, we have the batting to take the team through."
Harmanpreet walked away with the Player of the Match award for her defining knock of 40 from 29 deliveries, inclusive of three boundaries and two massive hits into the stands. India had lost two quick wickets - well-settled opener Vanitha (38) and in-form Smriti Mandhana (0) in quick succession before the vice-captain walked out to lead the repair. The 27-year-old said the plan was to fish for singles and settle down before she could switch to her natural attacking mode. "When I went in to bat, Mithali di was well set. The plan was to look for singles, while she plays the big shots. The last two matches we played here, were on flat tracks. But there was a bit of turn today, so I was just looking for singles initially."
Asked about the strategy behind introducing spin as early as the second over, despite the recent success of her pacers, Raj said, "There are times where you can have an offspinner who can bowl drifters with the new ball if it's flat. If there's a bit of seam movement, we can go in with two pacers. Today it was a batting track, and I didn't want to have pacers operating at both ends. Sometimes, even if they bowl very well, you need to have one of those pacers in the middle. That's why we opened with pace attack and spin from the other end."
Raj also commended her brigade for handling the pressure well in a crucial tournament opener. "I was just telling the girls, no matter how many televised bilateral series we play, World Cup is a World Cup, and it has that atmosphere and environment where everyone around you talk about the pressure of the big stage. So it didn't come as a surprise that they were all nervous. But, they rose to the occasion," said the happy skipper after her team's 72-run win.