Indian women’s ODI team skipper Mithali Raj said that the team is focussed on avoiding the qualifiers ahead of the 2021 World Cup but reckoned that it will be a major challenge facing World Cup champions England in the absence of injured Harmanpreet Kaur. The Indian women’s team begins its three-ODI series against England at home on Friday in the absence of star player Harmanpreet Kaur, who has been ruled out of the series due to an ankle injury.
On the eve of the series, she said that her team is focused on holding on to its position in the top-four of the world rankings till 2020 to get direct qualification for the 2021 World Cup. It’s a very important series for us, being number three right now in points table. Points are at stake and I definitely want the team to get direct entry (into the next World Cup). It’s important to get as many points as possible from the series..
India had beaten England 2-1 the last time the visitors were here in 2018 but Mithali said facing the visitors without Harmanpreet will show the team’s depth. England are a formidable side, being the World Cup champions and they will come strongly at us. We should be playing a positive brand of cricket. They’ve got their senior players back into the squad, and we are without one of our senior players. But this series will also show how we meet this challenge. It will reflect the depth of our team.
On the absence of Harmanpreet, Mithali said the injured player will be missed but her absence also provides chance to the youngsters to come good. She is one of the main players in the team for a long time, but it is also an opportunity for young players in the team to rise up and use the opportunity to step up and perform.
She further added that Harman is not there because of injury. I should emphasise that we, as a batting unit, should take the (added) responsibility and whoever gets the opportunity should play that role.
For a direct entry into the World Cup, Mithali and company need to hold on to their position in the top-four of the world rankings till 2020. However, the equation becomes a bit more complex in the wake of the terror attack by a Pakistan-based terror-outfit in Pulwama in Kashmir and the outrage it has given rise to all over the country. Now there’s a distinct possibility that the Indian team may not line up against Pakistan and Mithali said that she was aware of this sort of scenario.
“It’s always been in our minds that we probably won’t play Pakistan, and that’s why, whatever matches we play against whoever, we should be going in by keeping in mind that we need those points,” she remarked.
India had defeated New Zealand 2-1 in the recent ODI series in different conditions and Mithali said they will take the confidence into the series against England. It was our first win on the New Zealand soil, so it feels great to win a series there, but to come home and play England is completely different. The conditions are different. We’ll take a lot of positives and confidence from that series win, but our preparation and strategy differs from what it was in New Zealand.