Mithali Raj adds “it’s nice to go in without the baggage” as India Women seek exposure in tour of England
Raj: It’s good to have Tests, whether it’s at home or away. If there’s continuity, it’s great because it helps the player as well. Sometimes it’s nice to go in without the baggage; you just go and play it, enjoy the atmosphere and it’s good to have girls who have played for the first time and girls who’ve played in the past share their experiences of how it was way back in 2014. But I guess having two back-to-back Test matches, I mean to say touring England and Australia, can give a lot of exposure to the current lot. And If that can be carried forward in the coming years, it will be great for the sport.
Powar: I think it’s a great start. As head coach, obviously, I want more Test games all over the world. We have to look at it in a different way. It’s just a start; let’s take it step by step. Don’t push the girls into a zone where you’re demanding too many things in Test cricket. It’s a new format [for them] that has not been played consistently over the last ten years, so let’s wait and watch how they react. We might get surprises. They will perform better [if] given the opportunity.
Powar: It’s not ideal, worldwide, right now. We are trying to look at the bright side. If you look at it, women’s cricketers are getting opportunities – Test cricket, ODIs and, T20Is. It’s a good, long tour of 45 days, and I think, we as a team are thankful to the BCCI for putting up such a tour. It’s not easy.
It’s not physically possible, yes, [to prepare oneself adequately], but mental make-up will make a huge difference and I think in my last assignment we’ve tried that, and it paid dividends. I have done it with the Mumbai [men’s] team, and we had just six sessions, and we managed to react positively to the tournament we played.
Powar on the key to adapting quickly to English conditions
Powar: There will be balls seaming around for batters as well as bowlers. I think in every part of England the conditions will be different, so we will try and adjust to that. Batsmen will, obviously, play close to the body, they will show more patience. When the sun is out, they will enjoy their batting, when the sun is down, they’ll put in hard work to get over that period.
Bowlers also – if there’s a lot of help, they will have to control their swing also. There are a lot of things. We’ll go there and assess and we’ll build on it. We can’t go there with a fixed mind. The sun might be out and you may get flat tracks too. You never know.
Raj: It’s important that she gets games because even she needs game-time in the middle but, at the same time, being the senior-most it’s also important to keep her in the thick of things. If she needs rest, it’s up to her completely. Knowing Jhulan, I know for a fact she wants to play every game. As a captain also I would like to have her on the field so that the young fast bowlers in the side will get a lot of help if they have her around.
Powar: It depends on the way she handles practice sessions because we’ve done something great with Prithvi Shaw when we played the Vijay Hazare Trophy, so you can wait and watch. You might see a different Shafali when she [takes] the field after one and a half months.
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha
Eng vs NZ 2021 – Joe Root calls on England to find inner ‘showman’ as near-capacity crowds return
Captain hopes that fans can inspire team after criticism for negativity at Lord’s
Root’s team has been embroiled in controversy since the emergence of historic offensive tweets from a number of squad members, most notably Ollie Robinson, who has been suspended by the ECB pending an investigation. And in the eyes of some of their critics, they missed an opportunity to get their fans back onside in the Lord’s Test, as they declined to take on a 273-run fourth-innings chase, and chose instead to block out for the draw.
But Root, who confirmed that the team would once again stand for a “moment of unity” before the start of the second Test, hopes that the return of 17,000 fans a day at Edgbaston may provide an opportunity for a change of narrative – even in the absence of their most proven crowd-pleaser Ben Stokes, who has been at the heart of most of England’s most thrilling victories in recent times.
“We’re all very aware we’re in the entertainment business,” Root said. “We all want to be part of those games, those special games that provide that entertainment. They’re the ones that you remember.
However, with an unproven batting line-up in this series – one that had made four ducks in the first innings at Lord’s – Root still believes that discretion was the better part of valour in the first Test, after Kane Williamson’s lunchtime declaration had left England needing 273 in a minimum of 75 overs. Dom Sibley led the rearguard with an unbeaten 60, spanning more than five hours, as England closed on 170 for 3.
“I’ve had some time to think about that,” Root said. “I look at the situation we found ourselves in and I still feel we made the right decision. We’ve turned up here with an opportunity to win the series, albeit it is not part of the Test championship, but it is a Test match and that means a hell of a lot to the players and the group.
“We’re very keen to put in five days of strong cricket this week and win the series. If the opportunities arise, we’ll definitely look to be aggressive. I don’t want us to be considered a negative team who play a boring brand of cricket. We have some very exciting players who are capable of some wonderful passages of cricket and hopefully that will come to light this week.”
Edgbaston has traditionally been a favoured venue for England players, with the crowd’s close proximity to the playing surface, and the habitually rowdy support from the Hollies Stand in particular. Australia’s victory in the Ashes opener in 2019 was only the second by a visiting side in the last 20 years, and Root said he was thrilled at the prospect of feeling that support again.
“It will be great to have [that many] people in, enjoying the sport again in pretty much a full house,” he said. “We know Edgbaston in particular provides a wonderful atmosphere, you feel like there’s 12 players on the pitch and you’ve got that extra man.
“We’re very aware how lucky we are and how well we’re supported. It’s something we’ve missed as a side and are very much looking forward to. We can’t wait to experience five good days of cricket along with everyone else in the crowd.
“Every individual takes it in slightly differently,” he added. “For me, it’s the excitement of it… there’s a showman in everyone, if you like, you want to go out there and put on a show for everyone and it’s an opportunity to do that in your own way.
“We’ve all missed that interaction with the fans and the crowd. There’s certain bowlers – you look at Ben Stokes, Stuart Broad – they respond to that atmosphere in the ground in a really positive way. It could be a real boost for us and play into our hands.”
Root also urged his young batsmen to park the anxieties that they showed in the Lord’s Test, and put their focus into the occasion of representing England in a Test match, rather than worry that, with Stokes and Jos Buttler likely to return for the India series, they are already playing for their places.
“I see it as an opportunity to go out and score Test runs for their country and I hope they view it like that,” Root said. “They have an opportunity, but also a responsibility to play the situation in front of them to the best of their ability, and to try and eradicate any other thoughts, other than getting absorbed in that moment and get ready for that next ball.
“That’s the mindset we want to create,” he added. “Guys come into this team and can seamlessly fit in and do their roles. Hopefully guys will feel like that tomorrow and take their chance. The lads are fully aware of that and are talented enough to make big contributions.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
Jason Holder on losing Test captaincy
“More or less for me now it’s just about having fun and enjoying however many days I have playing international cricket”
“Yeah, it’s been difficult. I probably may not show it, but it has been difficult,” Holder told ESPNcricinfo in an interview a couple of days away from the start of West Indies’ first Test against South Africa in St Lucia. “For the last five-six years, I’ve been captaining West Indies, whether that be Test-match cricket or one-day cricket. So now being relieved of both captaincies, it has been a strange transition for me personally.”
That meant Holder’s stint as captain, which had begun in October 2015, ended after 37 matches, which included 11 wins and 21 losses. It was a period in which he climbed to great heights as a player, piling on big hauls with the ball and even hitting a double-century with the bat. After 47 Tests, Holder has 123 wickets at an average of 27.41, 2253 runs at an average of 33.13, and the No. 1 spot in the ICC rankings for Test allrounders.
“It’s no longer a time where you’ve got to look to select teams, look at combinations… all these things have just gone through the window. So for me now, it’s just a little bit more detailed as to as to my preparation into myself, particularly, and not having to deal with the team aspect of it.”
“It was kind of a shock. Yeah, still lost for words in regards to that, but I am not dwelling on it. I don’t think it’s something I should dwell on, to be fair,” Holder said. “I am just trying to find ways to move on and transition back to just being a regular player. For me now, it’s about showing a bit more of my character, and being a lot more… I would say outspoken. I am relatively outspoken, but just expressing myself a little bit more and having fun.
“I feel as though I have been really, really committed to West Indies cricket – I am still committed to West Indies cricket, but more or less for me now it’s just about having fun and enjoying however many days I have playing international cricket.”
Holder is still only 29, and has spent most of his career at the highest level in leadership roles. Without that responsibility, Holder felt he would have to redesign his role in the team.
“There is a lot less pressure, a lot less responsibility. It’s just about me now personally… I’m a 100% team man. So I’ll play my part to help the team and if there are other players who are seeking out advice or guidance, no doubt I’ll be here to give them that,” he said. “But it’s no longer a time where you’ve got to look to select teams, look at combinations… all these things have just gone through the window. So for me now, it’s just a little bit more detailed as to as to my preparation into myself, particularly, and not having to deal with the team aspect of it.
“I guess my contributions now will be more so in small groups and one-on-one basis with the players. And team meetings obviously I’ll share my expertise, and give as much guidance as I possibly can, but I still think the captain has to be given his leeway to lead the team the way he wants to lead the team, and we’ve got to give him confidence and support that we can as the group.”
The first West Indies vs South Africa Test starts on June 10, with the second set for a June 18 start at the same venue.
WI vs SA 2021 – Jason Holder calls for more action around anti-racism in cricket
“I would like to see some more emphasis, some more thought process going into actually resparking or re-engaging the movement”
“I had a few discussions about it and I feel as though some people feel it’s now a watered-down action taken before the games. I would like to see some new initiative to spark the movement again,” Holder said. “I don’t want people to just think we’re taking the knee because Black Lives Matter, that’s the tradition and that’s the norm. It has to have some substance, it has to have some meaning behind it.”
Although West Indies are likely to take a knee at the start of each of the two Tests against South Africa, as they have done in all of the series they have played since the England tour last year, Holder indicated they may add to the activism by other means. “Maybe, that’s something we can do as a group. Maybe, a video collage and a video message, just to reiterate what the movement stands for and what it’s all about,” he said.
“Racism is a big thing in the world and in society at this point in time,” he said. “I would like to see some more emphasis, some more thought process going into actually resparking or re-engaging the movement so it can actually hold some substance. Now, we are getting to a point where people are just saying we are taking the knee, but what do we actually take the knee for? Does it have that substance that it had before? To me, racism is something we need to speak out against. More awareness has to be going on around it. And the more we can do that, which could be in a different way rather than taking the knee, the better off we will be around this whole movement.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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