Mithali delighted with team's performance

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{image-mithali raj_13052008.jpg}New Delhi, May 13: As India launched ICC Women's World Cup 2009 campaign in style, captain Mithali Raj is delighted with the team's performance in the Asia Cup and hopes her side will be ready to challenge Australia next year.

''I am delighted with my team's performance in the tournament. It was a nice start to what is going to be a tough season for us,'' Mithali said.''We tried new players and experimented with different combinations during the competition. I am glad that everything worked well for us and we maintained a high level of consistency which was the perfect icing on the cake,'' she added. India unleashed four newcomers in the tournament-- top-order batter Priyanka Roy, fast bowler Snehal Pradhan, left-arm spinner Gouher Sultana and wicketkeeper-bater Anagha Deshpande. It also included left-arm spinner Neetu David, who took 11 wickets in the tournament, and batter Asha Rawat who was declared player of the final for her knock of 97.

''I am happy to say that we have a good pool of players with whom we will work over the next nine months not only to give them the required experience but also to find the combination which will help us in Australia,'' the skipper said.

''We know that the World Cup will be staged in conditions that will be friendlier to the fast bowlers, and that's precisely why we gave more opportunities to the fast bowlers without relying heavily on the spinners,'' she said.

The 25-year-old, who was also the captain of the Indian team that lost the 2005 World Cup final to Australia by 98 runs at the Centurion, believes her team was capable of pushing Australia.

''I think we are a good team to challenge Australia and give a tough time to the world champion.'' ''The World Cup is still nine months away and every team will try to improve its performance. As I see things, our chances in the tournament will depend on how good we prepare according to Australian conditions and how quickly we adapt to those conditions,'' she said.

''We will have to be careful in our preparations as they will vary from tour to tour. Our next assignment is in England and the conditions there are different as compared to Sri Lanka or Australia. But the basics remain unchanged and the bottom line is that we have to train and work hard in every single match we play in the lead-up to the World Cup. We have a talented pool of players and over the next nine months I would like to see improvement in fielding and match planning,'' she added.

During the course of the Asia Cup, Mithali and fast bowler Jhulan Goswami achieved personal milestones.

When Mithali reached 62 during her knock of 66 in the final, she became the first Indian and fifth overall in the history of women's cricket to complete 3,000 ODI runs. She joined the Australian duo of Belinda Clark (4,844) and Karen Rolton (4,261), New Zealand's Debbie Hockley (4,064) and England's Charlotte Edwards (3,304).

Jhulan, who won the ICC Women's Player of the Year at the ICC Awards in Johannesburg last year, became the second Indian bowler and fourth after Australia's Cathryn Fitzpatrick (180), team-mate Neetu David (141) and Clare Taylor of England (102) to take 100 ODI wickets.

Commenting on her achievement, Mithali said ''I consider it as a great honour and privilege to be bracketed with some of the biggest and most respected names in women's cricket.'' ''I didn't give it a thought while I was batting in the final as my focus was on collecting as many runs as possible in the final overs until I got a message from the dressing room that I was close to the 3,000-mark. To be in the top five leading run-getters' list is a big honour and I hope to score many more runs for India,'' said Mithali.


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