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India vs Australia: Hemlata Kala backs Mithali Raj-led side to shine in historic pink-ball Test

·6-min read

The upcoming women's tour of Australia will be a historic one, with the Indian team set to play their first-ever pink-ball Test towards the end of this month. After having not played the multi-day format for seven years, India are playing two Tests in the space of a few months this year, both against the top-ranked teams in the world.

And if their fighting spirit in the drawn game at Bristol is anything to go by, the Australian team could face a similar resistance in the day-night Test.

Former India cricketer and chief selector Hemlata Kala is among those backing the Mithali Raj-led side to make the country proud in the upcoming tour, especially in the Test, and doesn't think India's lack of experience in day-night Test cricket compared to Australia €" who played a pink-ball game at home during the Women's Ashes in 2017-18 €" will be a disadvantage for the visitors.

"It's not about winning or losing. The experience of playing the Test will matter a lot for the girls for the road ahead because we are playing the Test after a while. So the disadvantage or advantage of not having played a pink-ball game doesn't matter as much as individual performances, that we are able to perform better than we did in England," Kala told reporters in a virtual interaction with reporters organised by Sony Sports Network.

Kala, additionally believed the team's performance in the one-off Test will be a yardstick for it to measure its skill and temperament in the build-up to the World Cup that takes place in New Zealand next year.

"Every format is important for us. There's a 50-over World Cup coming up, and playing the Test would be a great way for us to measure our skills and our temperament. We did well in England, and I believe we'll do even better in Australia, even with the pink ball.

"We have good medium pacers, we have leg spinners who can make good use of the pink ball. We have the best leg-spinner in the world in our team at the moment. So I believe performance-wise we'll do well this time," added Kala.

Among the players who stood out in the hard-fought draw against England earlier this year was debutant Shafali Verma. The hard-hitting opener showing a mix of caution and aggression to register scores of 96 and 63 to get the Player of Match Award.

Kala, a former middle-order batter who played seven Tests and 78 one-dayers in addition to a solitary T20I against England, backed the feisty batter to get on top of the Aussie attack this time around after shining in England, especially in the pink-ball game.

"Shafali has an important role in the side, and will be as successful with the pink ball as she was in the red-ball game (against England) because of her power-hitting game. So I am certain she will find success in the Test, and along with Shafali, it's important for others to step up as well.

"I don't think there will be any challenge for Shafali. The way she plays, I think she is a very unique cricketer. If anyone puts the ball in her hitting arc, whether bowled at a speed of 140, 110 or 70, Shafali Varma will follow her instinct and play her natural game. So I don't think there will be anyone in the Australian team who can bother her in the upcoming series," added the former chief selector.

While all-rounder Sneh Rana's heroic 80 not out along with Taniya Bhatia's unbeaten 44 helped India secure a draw in the Bristol Test, in which they were forced to follow on after conceding a 165-run first-innings lead, the accolades for India's ninth-wicket pair was accompanied by a debate on whether women's Tests should have a fifth day like the men's game, instead of the four days that had been the tradition for so long.

Kala, for one, believes the women's game has evolved for the better over the years, and the time has come for Test cricket to follow suit.

"I believe if we want results in the game, then we should add an extra day in women's Test cricket. The four-day format has been going on in women's cricket for a long time now. Earlier the average team score in the women's game used to be in the range of 150 to 160. Around 2005, we used to put up totals in the range of 200. Even a team like Australia was bowled out for 193 by us.

Things are different now, and there are plenty of runs collected these days. The women's have seen some sizeable totals being put on the board of late. Embracing the five-day Test format in the women's game boosts the chances of getting a result. So I am in favour of adding an extra day to women's Test cricket, and it will probably get implemented in the near future," said the Agra native.

On being asked if the women could draw inspiration from the men's team's emphatic 2-1 triumph in Australia in their 2020-21 tour, Kala believed Mithali Raj and Co have dished out enough performances of note themselves, and didn't necessarily have to look up to the men for instilling belief in themselves.

"I don't think it's necessary for us to look at the men's team's 2-1 victory in Australia €" we have our own fighting performance in England earlier this year for inspiration. And if you look at our past performances against Australia, we defeated them in big games like the 2017 World Cup semi-final."

India play three ODIs and three T20Is in addition to the one-off Test. While the tour was to begin in Sydney before heading to Melboure and Perth and then making its way back to the New South Wales capital, all the matches have now been shifted to Queensland thanks to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.

The Test will now take place at the Carrara Stadium in Gold Coast, with the T20Is also being played at the same venue, while the one-dayers will be hosted at the Great Barrier Reef Stadium in Mackay starting 21 September.

Watch the LIVE coverage of India Tour of Australia Women on SONY SIX channels from 21st September 2021.

Also See: India vs Australia: Taniya Bhatia says team is excited for first-ever day-night Test

India vs Australia: Stella Campbell hopeful of making 'dream' ODI debut after shining in warm-up game

India's Shafali Verma maintains No 1 position in ICC WT20I batting rankings

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