Mithali Raj wants India Women to scale the heights the men have

Captains chart out their teams’ plans and discuss their chances ahead of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017

As the captains of the eight participating teams at the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017, which starts in England from June 24, posed with the trophy in a London hotel on Thursday, a photographer asked them to hold on to their smiles.

Women cricketers have kept their smiles on effortlessly despite a very lethargic rate of growth because of factors beyond their control. The irritation comes out at times.

Mithali Raj, the India Women captain, was at her sarcastic best when she was asked to name her favourite male cricketer. “Do you ask the same question to a male cricketer – who your favourite female cricketer is?” shot back Raj. “I have always been asked who is your favourite cricketer, but you should ask them who their favourite female cricketer is?”

Raj’s response became an immediate hit on social media, with Clare Connor and Charlotte Edwards among at least 2000 people to retweet or like the tweet sent out by Sipokazi Sokanyile, the South Africa Women media manager.

Equally interesting were the comments of the other six skippers – Inoka Ranaweera, the Sri Lanka Women captain, did not address the media – who gave insights into their preparation for the mega event.

Heather Knight (England Women)
(On staying away from social media, the home factor and trying to make 2017 special)

“A lot of us have decided to get off social media and use it scarcely. The bubble is about concentrating. It has served us well in the last year with respect to not looking who we are playing. Obviously you have plans, but it’s about sticking to our strength. We are pretty lucky in a home World Cup. We have little windows of comforts to get away. We have got home comforts, friends, and relatives to go to. A lot of girls are watching a dreadful TV programme called Love Island. You want to win the trophy and be the team that people want to watch. We would like 2017 to be a special year for us, and be remembered for that.

Meg Lanning (Australia Women)
(With a strike rate of 96.01, she has been instrumental in changing the profile of women’s cricket, especially in Australia, which is the defending champion)

“You have got to keep the game moving and attack the bowlers. If you allow the bowlers to dictate terms then you sort of dig yourself into a bit of a hole. That’s something that is happening a lot in women’s cricket of late – the batters really making sure bowlers are on the back foot rather than the batters. The game is just moving forward. You cannot sit back and let the game roll without doing anything about it. As Australians we have spoken about that – to take the initiative. The evenness of the competition is going to be as good as it has ever been. I don’t think you can say that four teams will be making it to the semis. There is no easy game. The quality of games is going to get better, and hopefully the media provides one of the best tournaments that’s been around.”

Suzie Bates (New Zealand Women)
(On learning from the experience at the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2016 where it won all league games but lost in the semi-finals)

“That (World T20) was a massive learning. We beat Australia in the build-up, and then won all league games going into the semi-final. The learning was that we became too predictable. We played the same batting line-up, used the same bowlers. West Indies sent out a new batter at No. 3 (Britney Cooper in the semi-final) and she scored runs. We hadn’t planned for that. Hopefully, we can change things a little bit in this tournament.”

According to Heather Knight, the England team are sticking to their strengths with the added bonus of playing a World Cup at home.
According to Heather Knight, the England team are sticking to their strengths with the added bonus of playing a World Cup at home.

Stafanie Taylor (West Indies Women)
(On the need to rotate strike instead of relying just on the big shots)
“If I don’t play in a game, the team seems to struggle. It’s just to remind them that you do have the belief and you are talented and you can go for it. We are naturally well built, strong, so we can play the big shots, but I think we need to focus a bit longer in the middle. Some of us don’t play many international games. Hayley (Matthews), Deandra (Dottin) and I have played in the Women’s Big Bash League and Super League in England, and we try to share the experience. We tend to believe that we need to hit big shots. But I believe we could definitely knock the ball around and get ones and twos.”

Mithali Raj (India Women)
(On why the team had asked for a men’s coach – Tushar Arothe was appointed – a few months before the World Cup)
“Men's cricket sets the bar. We are always trying to reach where they set the standard. All of us follow men's cricket because we want at some point that women's cricket would be up there. All of us at some point have been coached by a male cricketer. I strongly believe that they get a lot of intensity into the training sessions. They are very hard taskmasters. I believe that if you are representing your country, your country should get the best of the best. It's nothing to do with women coaches don't have the ability, they do. But if you really want to push the team to the highest level, you need to have somebody who is a tough taskmaster so that the girls really put in the intensity in their training sessions and they carry that into the main tournaments.”

Dane van Niekerk (South Africa Women)
(On having the best pace bowling unit, the healthy rivalry between Marizanne Kapp, the No. 1-ranked bowler, and Shabnim Ismail, trophy aspirations and a cool coach)
“It’s awesome (to have the No. 1 bowler). I am glad I can call her on to bowl instead of she bowling at me. She is a workaholic. She just wants to work and get better. She frustrates me sometimes because she just wants to speak cricket. Definitely, I will back her (Ismail) to the end of the world (on referring to herself as the world’s fastest bowler). With her small body, the aggression she shows is quite exciting. I love it. I have to say they have sorted it out among themselves. Kappy says she is a swing bowler. So I am glad I don’t have to be the mediator of that.
“It will be amazing (if we win). Obviously we have got fans backing both sides. You can’t be a fan one day and other day you are not a fan anymore. It will be a lot more personal victory, instead of showing the country – yay! It is going to be tough, (but will be a good reward) for the efforts that we have put in over last four years.
“He (Hilton Moreeng, the coach) is the calmest person I know. He is so calm that I sometimes want to shake him. In a team full of females, you need a guy who is not going to bomb at you because I promise you there will be 15 other girls jumping at you. Funny enough, he has got two boys. That’s the weirdest thing, but he just knows how to work with us. In the professional era, he has taught us a lot of things.”

Sana Mir (Pakistan Women)
(On being inspired by the men’s team that won the ICC Champions Trophy 2017)
“It has been inspirational for every cricketer, the way the boys turned the table around. After the first game, they were down and out. Coming back from there with such performances is inspiring. Like every other cricketer, we are inspired too and are proud of the way they played cricket in Champions Trophy. The kind of pressure we are building, the kind of practice games we have played has given us the confidence that we can put any team under pressure if we are delivering. We have not been finishing it well, but in this tournament we would like to do that.”

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