IND-W vs AUS-W Test: Mithali Raj bats for more red-ball cricket in domestic circuit

India skipper Mithali Raj on Wednesday called for the return of red-ball cricket in women’s domestic circuit if one-off Tests become a regular feature in their international assignments.

Mithali, whose side has just got two practice sessions ahead of the historic day-night Test against Australia starting Thursday, wanted more preparation time but the COVID-hit scheduling did not allow that.

India played their first Test in seven years in June and the Australia Test is their first with pink-ball.

“Clearly, if the girls need to do well in this format they have to have some sort of match experience in the domestic circuit. So, if this (Test) is going to be a regular (feature) then probably we will have another addition to our domestic calendar of playing days format,” said Mithali on the eve of the day-nighter.

The two-day red ball matches in domestic cricket were discontinued after the 2018-19 season.

Mithali said all the young players, who play leagues around the world, also want to play Tests and that is a healthy sign for women’s cricket. She called the two Tests this year a significant development in the game.

“If this becomes a regular feature in a bilateral series, playing three formats will definitely help all the players because that’s the feedback I get most of the time that every player, even today’s players who are part of various leagues. They also love to play the longer format.”

The BCCI has, in principle, agreed to slot in a Test whenever the team plays England and Australia.

“I feel whether you play with the red colour or pink ball, if the Test format is part of the itinerary, it really helps,” said Mithali adding that it would be nice to play a Test at home also.

Asked why no pink ball practice was arranged in the pre-tour camp in Bengaluru, Mithali said the focus then was on the whiteball series.

“We were preparing for the one day series back home in Bangalore so it was more to do with the white ball of course. We tried and played a few games under the lights to get used to the day and night Test and one off day-night ODI.

“Yeah, if we could have got a little more time between the last ODI and the Test, it would be quite helpful but again I understand it was shortened because of the COVID protocols… but playing Test at home also will be quite significant,” she said.

Talking about limited exposure to pink ball, Mithali said: “I’m playing for the first time with pink ball so I can’t really say what the challenges would be but yes whatever little I have faced in the nets, it does seam quite a bit.

“And that’s the initial feedback that I can give you facing the people in the nets, but as we bat in the Test , how the bowlers bowl, I’m sure it will help us (understand more about the ball).”

With pitch wearing a greenish look, both sides are expected to play a lot of seamers. India didn’t play a left-arm spinner in England and it remains to be seen what the combination will be.

“We needed a bowler who can fetch us wickets and that is why we went with two spinners (against England). Yes there is a bit of a selection conundrum here too, whether to go with seamers or spin dominant attack or whether we have to have offspinners,” she conceded.

Though India lost the preceding ODI series 1-2, they were able to break Australia’s 26-match winning streak and fought hard in the second and third game.

Mithali said the team has gained a lot of confidence from that performance.

“The team is definitely confident. Playing the best side before the ODI World Cup is great preparation. I do understand the first game was a bit of flash cricket we played and I really had to have a hard talk with the team and the girls really responded very well.

“We were looking to post a big total that was our target and we did that.

Mithali also backed her bowlers to take 20 wickets against Australia.

“It is one the best attacks we have had. We definitely are getting confidence from the one-day format, where we’ve got pretty much eight or nine wickets in a game from the Australian side.

“…the bowlers seem to be very confident because they have done a good job in the ODI format even though the Test is a little different.”