Pressure is Not Going to Sink us, We’ll Use it to Play Brave Cricket, Says Gujarat Giants’ Mithali Raj
Women’s Premier League has finally taken centerstage and it is garnering all the attention from across the world. The level of women’s cricket has increased rapidly in the past few years and they were just missing a franchise league tournament like IPL to unleash themselves on a grand level. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) took all the necessary steps to make the WPL successful in the first season itself and the result was shown in the first five matches. WPL started with a grand opening ceremony and it didn’t take any time to start producing the exciting cricket matches in women’s cricket that every fan was waiting for.
The tournament started with Gujarat Giants facing Mumbai Indians which turned out to be a one-sided affair in the latter’s favour. However, it was not a sign of worry for the tournament or for Adani Gujarat Giants as many teams do take some time in the initial stage to get their engine work in full flow.
Gujarat Giants looked a completely different unit when they clashed against UP Warriorz – the only teams who had no connections to IPL. It was a nail-biting thriller where UP Warriorz’s Grace Harris snatched the win from the jaws of defeat to beat Gujarat.
The tournament has just started and Adani Gujarat Giants have come under the scanners but their team mentor Mithali Raj feels that the performance the girls put up against Warriorz after a crushing defeat to Mumbai Indians shows that the team has all the talent to come up big and they are not going to sink under pressure.
In an exclusive conversation with News18 CricketNext, legendary India cricketer Mithali Raj opened up on Gujarat Giants’ performance in the tournament and what is the message to the players from the team management.
“I can say that as a support staff, we just told them that whatever plans and strategies they came up with, it might not have given a result that we would’ve wanted, but, credit also should be given to a player if they have played a blinder of an innings like Grace Harris. From nowhere she took the match a player like that, you can’t really pick faults in our innings. When you lose, you always find ways where you can improve on, definitely, those are the things that we will look into doing better in the next game. But I think from the first game to the second game, there’s a huge leap in terms of how the girls have come up on the ground,” Mithali told News18 CricketNext.
Meanwhile, Gujarat, which is the most expensive franchise, missed the services of Beth Mooney in the second game. The premier Aussie batter sustained a knee injury while batting in the match against MI and was ruled out of the second match. The franchise is expected to give an official statement regarding the status of her injury in the coming days.
In her absence, India all-rounder Sneh Rana led the charge against UP Warriorz and she made some good calls as a captain regarding the field placements and bowling changes. However, a blinder from Harris pulled the game away from Gujarat.
Talking about Rana’s captaincy, Mithali said that she had great support from her deputy Ash Gardner and the team looked confident with their body language on the field in the Warrioz clash which was missing a bit against Mumbai Indians.
“As a team, as a unit, I think we were far better in terms of body language, in terms of the strategies that the players have come across on the field have been a lot better than the first game. And I think Sneh Rana also had very good support from her vice-captain, her deputy – Ash Gardner, both of them together worked together. I think that they, Sneh has done well because she also has the experience of leading the Indian Railways team in the domestic season,” she added.
Every franchise will play 8 games in the group stage in WPL and Gujarat have already lost their first two which has put some added pressure on them. Mithali also admitted that they are under pressure but assured the team will use that in their favour to play brave cricket.
“Honestly saying, a team which has lost the first two games, they definitely will be looking for a win. I would not say that, we don’t have a pressure and all that, it’ll be there because we lost the first two games. But then that pressure is not going to sink us we are going to use that pressure to play brave cricket. There are still games to come. We are always looking to create an opportunity so that we can, that is the outlook that we are using right now,” she added.
Mithali, who is the pioneer of women’s cricket in India, further talked about her transition from a player to a mentor.
“I’m enjoying the mentor role. I don’t see any transition just that time I was, while I was playing as an active player I was on the field helping them out. It’s just that this time around, I can’t step out to the field I’m in the dugout in the dressing room and helping them out during training, that’s the only difference,” she said.
The WPL is providing a big stage for young domestic cricketers to express themselves on the big stage and share the dressing room with the big stars from all over the globe.
Mithali opened up on the equation of the domestic players with the overseas stars in her team and shared whether the young girls are finding it difficult to approach the star players or if there is no hesitation regarding that.
“It is both ways. I’m sure in every team, there is always this thing like, when there are different cultures, initially it’ll take time. But to be very honest, the overseas players are also making an effort to interact with the domestic players and vice versa. The domestic players are also keen to interact with them because that’s how they will gel as a unit, and it is so important in a team sport to understand your teammates because they’re the ones who are going to play along on the ground. So, I think it is two games in every team, whatever little social media that I follow about the pictures of every player, everybody is posting that, you know, they’re together and working on communication. So it is good to see that happening in all teams,” she concluded.
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