Hailing the decision of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to expedite the process of strengthening the bench strength of the India national women cricket team, captain Mithali Raj admitted that not having a bench-strength of desired quality is a reality and it will take at least two more years before the next crop of international standard players emerge. The Indian women's team were soundly thrashed 0-3 by their Australian counterparts but the more worrying aspect has been lack of replacements for a lot of non-performers.
The India A team which played a few warm-up games against Australia A and now England A have been wallopped in most of the matches, raising serious questions about reserve bench. Save Jemimah Rodrigues, no top quality talent has emerged from the women's game with most players having been around for 3-4 years now.
"We have just started with India A tours and formation of an A team, since last year, after we came back from the World Cup. It will take sometime. It will take a couple of years to get our second string in place," the straight-talking Mithali put things as it is currently in the women's game.
She believes that international exposure will make them better
"We do have some young talented players, but they need that exposure. So I am sure in a year or two, we will have a better quality of players playing India A," the 35-year-old veteran batter said.
While India did beat Australia in the World Cup semi-final in England but Mithali conceded that Southern Stars are a far better side than the 'Women In Blue' any day.
"Firstly, the Australian side that we faced in Baroda (during three-match series) were a far superior side in every department," she said.
Mithali feels that one shouldn't compare India's twin-series win on South African soil with defeat at home as conditions as well as quality of opposition was completely different.
"In South Africa, the team has done well and it was altogether a different situation when we toured South Africa."
On the upcoming T20 series involving England and Australia, Mithali's assessment is that both are good sides even though they have sent new players.
Asked to rate among Australia, South Africa and England, Mithali said: "Australia are top-most because they have a batting line-up, which goes deep and they are a good fielding squad. In all three departments, they are great," she added.
Mithali rued that her team were lagging behind in terms of conjuring up partnerships during the last series.
"We lagged (behind) in having partnerships in the middle-order, that we had in South Africa tour. Our middle-order did not click in the ODIs. The bowlers weren't as disciplined as they were in South Africa tour. Things did not go our way," she defended.
Praising young Rodrigues, the skipper also said that she was the one to look out for in the future.
"Its always good to (make) it to the Indian squad, at young age, because you have those years backing you. Likewise Smriti (Mandhana) debuted early, so is Deepti Sharma.
"And we have Jemmy, who has done well in domestic season, and it was right time to give her that opportunity. She is used to playing in Mumbai and Baroda, she is one of those players for the future, we have Pooja Vastrakar, we have Tania Bhatia (wicket-keeper), we have five-six of young girls, who have got into the T20 and ODI squad in South Africa and we need to invest in them", she said.
She also praised the Board's decision of giving contracts to women cricketers, saying that players should invest more as they know that they are getting paid well to put in their best effort.