Post 50-over success, Mithali says India must play more Tests
Twenty20s and One-dayers are the formats driving women's cricket forward but it is only the ultimate challenge of playing Tests that will help India produce more world-class players, said skipper Mithali Raj who has played just 10 Tests in an 18-year-old career.
Speaking at felicitation function organised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, where each of the squad member was presented Rs 50 lakh by the Board, Mithali spoke of the importance of playing more Tests.
The Ashes between Australia and England is the only regular Test fixture in women's cricket while other teams mainly play the shorter formats.
India have played just five Tests in the last 10 years.
"Test matches are the ultimate test for cricketers, whether it is your temperament, skill or endurance. However, women's cricket needs promotion and so far it has been done mainly through T20s and ODIs by the respective cricket boards," said Mithali at a special felicitation ceremony organised by the BCCI.
"As of now, it seems every board wishes to market the sport through T20 and ODIs as they think they are the ideal formats. I feel Test matches should be played as frequently as limited over games because it churns out quality players. If the Indian team wants to play, the other teams should also be ready to play Test matches," she added.
The Indian women's team has been busy attending a host of felicitations ever since it returned from England, where it exceeded expectations by reaching the World Cup final.
They are not used to it but the entire squad was mobbed by the media and the fans.
Mithali said it feels good to be wanted, as it was never the case earlier.
"I am one of those players who have seen days before the BCCI took over and after that as well. I am fortunate that I continued to play. Today I am seeing this phase in women's cricket, the reception we have got has been overwhelming.
"I clearly remember, despite doing well in 2005 World Cup, we never had this kind of a reception. It is a nice feeling after what we have all gone through, we feel wanted, feel appreciated for the effort we have put in all these years.
Mithali said Indian Railways played a huge role in giving support to the players through jobs.
"A special mention to the Indian railways for supporting us and extending jobs to the girls. If it was not for the Railways, many more talented cricketers would have quit the game to focus on getting jobs for financial security," said Mithali, who played her fifth World Cup.
Despite India losing the final from a comfortable position, Mithali said it was a brilliant team effort.
"Not many gave us a chance to reach the semis or final. This world cup has been very tough.
"What the team has achieved in this World Cup, the seeds were sown in the ODI series against Australia, the West Indies tour, the Quadrangular Series in South Africa, the Qualifiers in Sri Lanka and into the World Cup. The preparation was very good," she said, adding that she will continue playing for another 2-3 years.
Sharing the stage with her captain, batting sensation Harmanpreet Kaur too felt good about getting a grand welcome.
"It is only when you do well, you are recognised. This is exactly what has happened. It is a big achievement to play the final, considering we did not do well in the earlier editions," said Harmanpreet, who is seen as Mithali's successor in ODI cricket.
Her 171 against Australia in the semi-final has made the history books. She is the first Indian to play in Women's Big Bash in Australia and now hopes the country can have a league of its own.
"Playing Big Bash was a very big achievement for me. I learnt a lot there and that helped me a lot in the World Cup. I hope more Indian players get the opportunity post the World Cup. It has only been Smriti Mandhana and myself so far.
“If women's IPL happens, other countries' players will come and play here, and sharing the dressing room with international players will be a big confidence booster to the the local players," said Harmanpreet.