With just ten months to go for the ICC T20 World Cup 2020, former India all-rounders Shantha Rangaswamy and Shubhangi Kulkarni have vouched for Mithali Raj, saying that she can fit into any format. The cricketing legends have also suggested that BCCI make Jhulan Goswami part of the team ahead of the tournament in Australia. Mithali, the torch-bearer of women’s cricket in India for more than a decade, was left out of the ICC Women’s World T20 2018 semi-final against England in the Caribbean, which began the war of words between the 36-year-old and former coach Ramesh Powar.
In an exclusive interaction with ANI, Rangaswamy, who was a member of the panel that picked the new coach WV Raman, said, “If she is fit, yes. If I’ve had any say, I’ll definitely include Mithali sheerly for her batting. Whenever she got a chance in the West Indies (during ICC Women’s World T20 2018), she got a couple of half-centuries (against Pakistan and Ireland) which others couldn’t including Harmanpreet (Kaur) herself. Although Harmanpreet is ideally a T20 player, I personally feel she (Mithali) can fit into any (format).” “If a player is good they will do well in any format,” Rangaswamy said while calling Mithali “one of the best”. “We collapsed in World T20 semi-final (against England) last year by seven wickets, gone for hardly any run. I hope that will be an eye opener,” she added.
Mithali was named in the squad for three T20Is against New Zealand. However, she was added only for the third game, which had no consequence as India had already lost the series. The first Indian cricketer, male or female, to register 2000 T20I runs, Mithali scored 57, including an unbeaten 30, in the recent three-match series against England at home. Veteran spearhead Jhulan, who retired from T20I cricket in August last year, too, found a place in Rangaswamy and Kulkarni’s list for the T20 World Cup. Goswami has represented India in 68 T20Is and has 56 wickets under her belt, including a five-wicket haul against Australia in 2012.
Kulkarni, secretary of the erstwhile Women’s Cricket Association, stated, “It’s totally up to Mithali to decide. But as long as they (Mithali and Jhulan) are performing they should be there. I’m sure the selector will also be thinking of that. It doesn’t depend on how old you are, it’s more about how fit you are and whether you can contribute. So as long as both of them can contribute I think they should be there.” Delighted to see Goswami’s name in the IPL-style Women’s T20 Challenge, Rangaswamy said, “How many Gavaskars, Dravids, Tendulkars, Kohlis do you see? They don’t come in bunches, it’s once in a way that such players emerge. Jhulan belongs to that class. I’m not saying others won’t come, they will but you won’t get players of that calibre. We’ll have to buy our times to get players of that calibre.”
Rangaswamy, a former chairperson of the BCCI women’s selection panel, added, “They have picked Jhulan for this league, if she does well, I feel she can be persuaded to go for next year’s World Cup. Perhaps she didn’t want to make a scene with some players, that might have been the reason she gave up (T20I) but I saw her play here (domestic cricket, where Bengal won the National Championship) and she did superbly with both bat and ball. I watched it and I still feel she can give a lot. If she does well, selectors can talk to her and make her be part of the team.”
As the likes of Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues and Poonam Yadav are taking the centre stage, Kulkarni advised, “They (emerging players) have got a lot of opportunities because they’re playing a lot more. They should take maximum advantage of that and also learn a lot by watching (the game) and listening to the commentary. That’s something earlier players didn’t get so they can watch and improve. They should take advantage of all the facilities. Now that they are getting contracts they can focus on their playing and enhance their game. It’s great to get selected but it’s also up to them now to raise the profile of women’s cricket by enhancing their skills and making it a world-class sport — the fastest growing sport in India.”
Rangaswamy added, “They have Mithali, Smriti (Mandhana), Jhulan, Rajeshwari (Gayakwad), Poonam Yadav, Deepti Sharma — perhaps very young but very matured head. So they have role models, watch them and play like them. Learn the good things from them that would be the only thing I would suggest.