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By Avinash Kr Atish
New Delhi, Dec 7 (IANS) Veteran batter Punam Raut, who has lost her spot in the Indian women's cricket team's ODI setup in the past few months, has said that selection is not in her control and she can only focus on her performance. Raut added that she will prove herself once again and win matches for the country, whenever she gets the opportunity.
A technically solid top-order batter, Raut has been a consistent performer for India since her initiation into international cricket. She is known for tackling vicious spells from opponent bowlers with reasonable ease and providing solidity to the team.
Starting 2021 on a high, Raut played a few good innings in the home ODI series against South Africa in March. However, she played just one ODI when the Indians toured England before completely losing her spot in the starting 11 in Australia.
The 32-year old feels every new coach has a different set of tactics and wants to try different things, and it could be one the reasons behind her omission from the playing XI in ODI cricket.
Raut said that since the coach was changed, she got only one opportunity to showcase her talent. She is feeling confident about her form and willing to prove herself once again whenever she gets the chance to do that.
'Every new coach has a different set of tactics and planning, so we need to work accordingly. It's a team game and everybody needs an opportunity to showcase their skill. So they were trying different combinations and that's okay. I always take things sportingly, love challenges and of course if I get an opportunity then only I can prove myself and I am waiting for that,' Raut, who last played an ODI in the England series in June, told IANS.
'It's (selection) not under my control, team management decides who will feature in the playing XI. So, I can only focus on my performances, follow the process, feel confident about my ability and whenever I get an opportunity, I will give my 100 per cent for the team. That's how I approach things in life,' she added.
The top-order batter also mentioned that no matter who gets selected, when any individual does well for the team, every player feels good about that because the ultimate goal is the team's win.
The 2022 ICC Women's Cricket World Cup will be held in New Zealand in March and April next year. And the Mumbai-born cricketer doesn't only want to make a comeback before the big event but is also keen to play match-winning knocks for the team,
Talking about her preparation for the World Cup in New Zealand Raut said that she is trying to add a few things in her armoury.
'I want to make a strong comeback and play match-winning knocks for the team. I am working on facing short-of-length deliveries. Though, I didn't get much opportunity to play many ODIs in Australia but during the Test match I got the basic idea of bouncy pitches in that part of the world,' she told IANS.
'Trying to learn shots which will be productive on New Zealand pitches. I have also worked on my strike rate and it was visible during the South Africa series. It's a gradual process and as we play more international games, we get experience and improve our skills, though it's a different ball game altogether to practice in India and play in foreign conditions. So, the series against the White Ferns before the World Cup will be crucial,' she added.
Highlighting the areas that the Indian women's team need to work on before the mega event, the right-handed batter said that the fast-bowling department will have to step up in the windy New Zealand conditions and the team shouldn't get pressured in the knockout matches.
'After playing the last World Cup, we now know about the areas that we need to address. Traditionally, batting and spin bowling have been our strengths but since the upcoming World Cup will be played on bouncy New Zealand pitches and windy conditions, we will rely more on our fast bowlers and they need to step up,' she explained to IANS.
'Last World Cup, we crumbled under pressure in the final and it shouldn't happen again. We can't think about that result before the start of such big games. We need to trust the process and prepare well to live in the present and focus on small things,' she added.
Asked about her favourite format among the three, Raut said that she loves Test cricket the most.
'As a cricketer, I always would like to play all the formats. But, Test cricket is the most challenging as it tests our technique, skill and fitness, so among the three, I love Test cricket the most. Every player dreams of playing a Test match for her country or play a Ranji game for his state as it gives a special kind of identity,' she told IANS.
The cricketer added that the number of women Test matches should be increased considering India's performances in the last two Test matches against strong opponents.
'Our team is doing very well right now in the longest format of the game. We played Test matches against England and Australia and gave them a tough competition. Perhaps, nobody would have expected us to perform well but we were successful in drawing both the matches and the result would have come if it was a five day contest. BCCI is also now supporting women's Test cricket and I am very excited about this,' a hopeful Raut said.
Notably, the Indian cricket board approved five-day Tests for the women's team, who have largely played in four-day encounters lately, during their 90th Annual General Meeting (AGM) on December 4.
India played their first-ever pink-ball Test match in Australia in the recent past, where they dominated the rain-affected game for a large part before settling for a draw due to lack of time. One of the biggest talking points of that particular match was Raut's decision to walk despite having been adjudged not out by the on-field umpire. However, for Punam it was a very instinctive move on her part.
'That was very instinctive because it was out and I knew it. It was a very fine edge that only the keeper and I could hear. I was absolutely sure the umpire would give it out so I didn't even see him and decided to walk off. Never thought people will hype it that much. I did whatever I felt was right at that time,' she told IANS.
Talking about her overall experience from that game, Raut said, 'It was a great experience to play the pink- ball Test for the first time. It was quite tough and challenging for bowlers more than batters because of dew. Despite facing all new sorts of things, we performed well and I am really looking forward to more and more Test games in future.'
Raut has played 73 women ODIs for India, scoring 2299 runs and hitting one century and 15 half-centuries. In Test, she has scored 264 runs in four matches.
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