It was the first day of the historic pink-ball Test between the Indian women’s cricket team and Australia at Gold Coast but the incident made the headlines much more than the match itself. Maybe, it isn’t seen often these days that despite the umpire shaking his head, the batter decided to walk because she knew, she had got a faint tickle.
Indian women’s team’s No 3 in Test and ODIs, Punam Raut, who turned 32 on Thursday, October 14 walked off when the left-arm spinner Sophie Molineux’s ball had taken a faint edge of her gloves into wicket-keeper Alyssa Healy’s gloves. Molineux appealed, the umpire shook his head but to everyone’s surprise, Raut was on her way to the dressing room.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) October 1, 2021
‘Did what I felt was right’
“This is just a sport, if you have to compete, you should do it the right way. In the middle, there’s every chance that you can stay on the crease and cheat your way and compete but personally, I feel, there’s no fun in it. When you play the game with true spirit, it gives you complete satisfaction.
“The players in the dugout obviously weren’t happy as a set batter got out and everyone wasn’t happy with my decision but still I did what I feel was right,” Punam Raut told DNA in an exclusive chat.
‘Would have proven myself, had I got opportunities’
Raut was part of the Indian team’s first-ever day-night Test but she wasn’t coming from a lot of game time. Before the Test match, she last played in June against England in one ODI and one Test and three domestic games for Railways before that even though she has been in smashing form this year.
Raut began the year on a thunderous not with a century and two fifties against South Africa in the five-match ODI series at home and then a couple of half-centuries in domestic cricket playing for Railways in three games but just didn’t get enough opportunities to capitalise on the same.
‘I was very high on confidence in South Africa series and then domestic as well, two fifties in three games but suddenly I got just one game in England (ODIs), so couldn’t prove myself there. Agar mujhe matches milte na, main shayad prove kar sakti this (If I had got game time, I would have proven myself).”
Raut got one ODI to play in England but she didn’t get even that in the recently concluded Australia series. She said that she was expecting to be given more chances but management told her that they wanted to try other players as well, as the World Cup looms large.
‘First innings gave me confidence for second innings in day-night Test’
So having not played much in the build-up to the first pink-ball Test and getting a couple of net sessions wasn’t ideal preparation but Raut just wanted to brush up her skills as much as she could and prepared in a way that she could stay in the line of the ball and play as close to the body as she could.
“The first innings was about just understanding the surface and getting acclimatised to it but I got quite comfortable in the second innings and was aware of all the situations, the bowlers, the surface, etc.
Raut played a gritty knock of 36 runs taking 165 balls when India smashed 377/8-d in the first innings when there was rain and weather around after being put in to bat first. However, a much fluent Punam Raut was on show in the second innings as she played the situation and was able to play her strokes well, time the ball and look very easy on the eyes scoring 41 runs off 62 balls. She mentioned that the pink ball moves much more in the first 10-15 overs but after the shine was gone, it was easy to play.
Raut felt pride and fortunate of being one of the members of the playing XI of India’s first day-night Test and said that after a couple of hours, playing a Test match in the evening was quite amazing adding that they didn’t feel the exhaustion and even after the day’s play were quite fresh because of the cooler temperatures.
‘You need anchors in a 50-over match’
In the two innings of the Test match, Raut showed that she can play in both gears and according to the situation but in the last couple of years she has faced criticism due to her strike rate. However, she feels that it isn’t an issue and we should not focus on the other teams and how they go about their business, instead play according to our strengths.
“One-day cricket is a long game, it’s not like T20 where you have to play over 100 strike rate, you have to be resilient in 50-over matches. In a playing XI, there are five pure batters, followed by 2-3 all-rounders. The batters should take responsibility, if three people are playing aggressively, at least two should play the anchor role and provide the stability to the innings.
“All-rounders have done well for us but you can’t expect them to score 50-100 runs in the last few overs. The top five batters should play at least 40 overs because if everyone is playing over-aggressively, the whole team will be out in 30 overs. The pure batters should consume the most number of overs, then only you will be able to touch a score of 275-280, even 300,” the 32-year old added.
Raut may not have got many opportunities in the last ODI series, she hoped that her performance in the Test match might have helped to see her name in the playing XI in their next assignment when they take on New Zealand before the World Cup in New Zealand in March.
‘We can win the World Cup’
Team India fell just inches short in the 2017 Women’s World Cup final against England, which ignited the interest of several cricket fans and broadcasters in Women’s Cricket. With the ext World Cup in four months, Raut believed that they have the team to win this time, also given that the youngsters have proven themselves on the big stage.
“I am pretty confident [about the team’s chances], seeing the way our girls have performed and have developed their game over the period of time. The youngsters, who have come into the team have shown that they can win games for India.
“Now, a few of them are playing in the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL), which is a great platform for them. Playing alongside the international stars, that experience will do a world of good for them and Indian cricket,” she said.