Express News Service
CHENNAI: On Tuesday evening, India women’s Test and ODI captain Mithali Raj and coach Ramesh Powar sat side by side to face the media, ahead of their departure to England, for the first time since 2018. Powar’s acrimonious exit in November 2018 after a fallout with Mithali is well-documented, but the former off-spinner is now in charge once again. Their bitter past was understandably brought up on Tuesday, but both were unequivocal in stating they have been professional enough to move on.
“We need to stop speculations about differences between Mithali and me. We have interacted well with each other. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have come in as women’s coach,” Powar responded.
Of course, there are stern challenges in store for the Indian women’s team and it would need both Mithali and Powar to work in unison. The women will play a Test against England in Bristol this month after a seven-year gap, followed by an unprecedented day-night Test against Australia in Perth from September 30 to October 3. With just eight of the 18 members travelling to the UK having prior Test experience, negligible at that, they are being thrown in the deep end. But Mithali wants the girls to embrace the challenge.
“It is good to have Tests, whether home or away. It will be great if there is continuity as it helps the players. But sometimes, it is nice to go in without baggage and just enjoy the atmosphere. Having Tests on tours of England and Australia in quick succession can give a lot of exposure to the current lot. If that can be carried forward in the coming years, it will be great for the sport,” Mithali explained.
Powar agreed but also warned against too many expectations too soon from the side in Test cricket. “Obviously, I want more Tests for the women’s team all over the world. This is a great start. But it is just a start. Let’s take it step by step. Let’s not push girls into a zone where you are demanding too many things in Test cricket. It is a new format for many of them,” the 43-year-old coach reasoned.
With the Indian men’s team, led by Virat Kohli, simultaneously leaving for the UK, Mithali also senses an opportunity for the girls to talk to the boys and draw on their experience in those conditions. “The girls have been interacting with the boys whenever they have crossed paths in the hotel. It is good to have the men’s team around since they have played a lot in UK. It can help the girls to learn from the experience of the men,” she said.
Never wanted to skip press conferences, women’s game needs media’s support: Mithali
Following tennis star Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open after the row surrounding her decision not to speak to the media, a debate has been sparked on the effect that media duties may have on the mental well-being of athletes.
When Mithali was asked for her take on the issue, she said: “Personally, I have not really felt that I should forgo a press conference because women’s cricket needs the media’s support. It is important for the players in our team to interact with the media and promote the sport.”