India great Mithali Raj sees at least three to four members of the triumphant Women’s U-19 T20 World Cup squad graduating to the senior level and potentially playing a key role in the ODI World Cup at home in 2025.
Leg-spinner Parshavi Chopra, opener Shweta Sehrawat, pacer Titas Sadhu, off-break bowler Archana Devi and left-arm spinner Mannat Kashyap were among the standout performers of the U-19 side that outplayed England in the final in Potchefstroom on Sunday.
Mithali, who was invited by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to interact with the cricketers ahead of the inaugural edition, feels women’s cricket has finally got a platform from where the players can be fast-tracked or groomed for the future.
”The spinners and seamers have been very impressive and in both the departments we need improvement at the senior level. It’s always good to have more options and build a solid pool of players.
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”When you compare to the highest level, there is obviously bit of difference in terms of standards, technique and temperament at the U-19 level.
”We will have to work on them. And from what I saw in South Africa, they are really good,” Mithali, who called time on a 23-year-old illustrious international career last year, told PTI.
The leading run-getter in women’s ODI cricket said the NCA in Bengaluru prepared the team well for the first ever global age-group event.
Going forward, she wants all the squad members of the victorious outfit to toil on the domestic circuit while the three or four who are ready for the higher level can be slowly drafted into the national side.
”Playing domestic cricket is very important for them and should not be neglected. WPL will also get them the required exposure.
”The next ODI World Cup is at home and we have not won a global event yet at the senior level. I am sure the BCCI is prioritising that and will keep these players in the mix,” said the champion batter.
With the talent pool not as big as men’s cricket, the probability of the women’s U-19 players reaching international cricket increases significantly. On an average, one or two from the Men’s U-19 World Cup go on to play for India but Mithali feels the number should be higher in women’s cricket.
She also fondly recalled her interactions with the Shafali Verma-led squad before the start of the tournament in South Africa.
”It was not much of a technical conversation. It was more about the preparation and they had lots of questions on that. Things like how to prepare because these girls are very young and there is a lot of difference in team training and personal training. I spoke about how to make the transition.
”They are very keen learners and because of the level they are at, they are very energetic as well,” she said.
Mithali was also all praise for Women’s U-19 head coach Nooshin Al Khadeer.
”She has worked tirelessly with this bunch of cricketers and deserves all the credit. She has done well in all her assignments whether it is with the Railways in domestic cricket and now at the India U-19 level.” Asked if Nooshin is ready to coach the senior India team, Mithali replied in the affirmative. ”Yes, of course.” I knew my playing days were over when I retired from international cricket
Mithali will be part of the ”game-changing” Women’s Premier League as a mentor with the Adani-owned Gujarat Giants.
Since she is yet to retire from domestic cricket, there was speculation that she might return to the field for the inaugural edition of the T20 league.
”When I announced retirement (in June last year), deep inside I knew I won’t be playing again.
”The league is finally happening in March and I could not be more excited to be part of it and share whatever I have learnt over the years,” she added.