Chennai:Even as the country bask in the glory of our women cricketers reaching its maiden World Cup final, India eves coach Sudha Shah is not willing to take credit for the team' success. An out-an-out hard taskmaster, Shah terms it as a "success" of everyone associated with the women's cricket team be it the captain, selectors or the officials who work conscientiously behind the scenes to achieve the desired results.
The former India captain who appeared in 20 Tests and 13 One-day Internationals, unlike most coaches, believes in letting her work do the talking rather than tom-tomming about it herself.
The 47-year-old Canara Bank employee in an exclusive interview to ThatsCricket.com shared her views on what India's first-ever World Cup final-reaching feat could do in changing the face of women's cricket in India.
Here are some of the excerpts:
Q. Women's cricketers are like poor cousins compared to our cash-rich male cricketers. No money, no recognition- women's cricket has often failed to make its presence felt. Do you feel India's maiden entry into the World Cup final could see things changing for the better?
A: (After a pause) We were overwhelmed by the response we got from our fans, media and off course our sponsors when we landed in Mumbai from South Africa. We touched down at around 12:30 at mid-night but were surprised to see over hundred pressmen waiting for us at the airport something we are not used to.
We hardly get to see so many people receiving us at the airport when we come from tours abroad. It feels good to get recognized. It's great to know that there are people who are following our World Cup showing and are backing us throughout. If the reception we got at the airport is any indication and is a harbinger of things to come, I have no doubt in my mind that the future bodes well for the game in the country.
Q. Mithali Raj was foisted with the responsibility of captaincy in place of Mamatha Maben just weeks before the World Cup. What's your take on her captaincy?
A: I reckon Mithali did a superb job at the World Cup as captain. For someone who had taken the mantle of captaincy for the first time and that too in a big-ticket event like the World Cup, she hardly showed any nerves at any time during the World Cup. Even when the things were not going our way she took things in her stride and was able to bring the best out of her team-mates.
What's so good about her is that she is a team player who would do everything for the side. She has herself said in the media circles that she does not think herself as captain when she is batting at the wicket which itself speaks volumes of her attitude.
She is cool and is very level headed which would always stand her in good stead. I'm sure with more experience she would develop into a fine leader in the years to come.
Q. Indian spinners are counted as the best in the World but at the World Cup our seamers really lived up to their expectations and often kept the opposition under sustained pressure by making early inroads. Do you think that our bowling attack have the potential to be the best bowling attack in the world?
A: Why not!, Our spinners are our trumpcards and were expected to dish out the best at the World Cup. The triumvirate of Neetu ( David), Deepa (Marathe) and Nooshin (Al-Khadeer) performed to our expectations in South Africa but hats off to Amita (Sharma) and Jhulan (Goswami) as they shouldered a lot of responsibility in the seam bowling department and that made a big difference to our overall performance at the World Cup.
Q. A coach always has a role to play in a team' success. How much difference do you think you have made to the fortunes of the side ever since you took over the job of coaching the side?
A: (Grins) It's difficulty for me to assess as to how I have contributed to the team doing well. It's for the others to judge. I have a talented bunch of individuals at my disposal and always knew that they were going to deliver. The only thing I would always tell the girls is to stay positive. I also keep harping on trying to enjoy the game and that they shouldn't exert undue pressure on themselves when the chips are down.
Q. Indian batting and bowling look formidable but the same cannot be said of our fielding. Do you feel it's one area most other international teams score over us?
A:"You are right. Our batting and bowling is okay. We need to work on our fitness regimen and also on our mental toughness and once we are strong on these two aspects we can be a world-beater not to say that we're not now.
Q. Australia's dominance in women's cricket is quite phenomenal. Apart from a narrow World Cup final defeat to the White Ferns (New Zealand) in 2000 they have been riding a consistent wave over the years. Do you think their game revolves too much around the veteran quartet of Belinda Clark, Karen Rolton, Lisa Kieghtley and Cathyrn Fitzpatrick?
A: I would think so. Obviously they are their key players but they are ageing. Once they hung up their boots, Australia would find it hard to fill the void left by them. Of course there is Lisa Sthalekar who is young and promising but mind you filling in their shoes is easier said than done.
Q. Indian women have a well-earned break. What lies ahead of us as far as international assignments are concerned?
A: Well, England are coming to India to play one Test and five ODIs in November-December. We have a tour of Australia and New Zealand coming up in February-March for one Test and a few ODIs besides a Twenty20 meet. In June we are off to England for a series of Tests and One-day Internationals. Everything is tentative as of now. That's quite a lot of cricket ahead of us.