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Mithali Raj says Sneh Rana a key allrounder for India's future

Record-breaking captain backs Harmanpreet Kaur, Jemimah Rodrigues to find form

Annesha Ghosh
Annesha Ghosh
Mithali Raj has identified Sneh Rana as a key allrounder for India's future after Rana completed a memorable comeback to the longer formats with a stunning Test debut last month and impressive returns in India's thrilling win in the third ODI on Saturday.
Rana's cameo of 24 from 22 balls at No. 7 in Worcester was pivotal to her 50-run sixth-wicket stand with Raj as the duo helped India seal a four-wicket win in the final match of the three-game ODI leg of the multi-format series. Earlier in the day, Rana had also made an imprint with the ball, returning figures of 7-0-31-1, having opener Lauren Winfield-Hill caught for 36 to break a 67-run second-wicket partnership. She had picked up 1 for 43 in the second ODI.
"Definitely, yes," Raj said when asked about Rana, 27, emerging as a formidable choice as allrounder upon her return to international cricket after a five-year gap. "That's a slot we've always looked for somebody who has the shots to clear the field - strong shots all round. And it helps to have a player there who can also bowl. So it's good to have her in the side.
"She's definitely shown that she does have the character in her to be built into a good player. In the current era, in modern cricket, allrounders play a very important role in the composition of the team. I'm sure that she has a bigger role playing for India in the coming years."
While Rana's form was one of the bright spots for India in their 1-2 loss in the ODI segment of the seven-match series, ODI vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur's underwhelming batting form on the tour so far hasn't been ideal for the visitors. Kaur made 16, 19, and 1 in the three ODIs and 4 and 8 in the drawn Test in Bristol last month.
Raj, however, backed Kaur to regain form as the tour enters its T20I leg, the first of the three matches on July 9 in Northampton.
"It does happen with any player," Raj said of Kaur's lean patch. "Sometimes you're just not in form. But as a team and as a unit we back players who have been match-winners. We also know that single-handedly she has won games for us with her innings. This time around she needs the support of the team to back her.
"It's just a matter of one innings for a batter like her to get [back] her rhythm and timing.I'm sure with the T20 format, a format that suits her game, I really hope she will be back among the runs."
That India are far from settled as far as their No. 3 goes was borne out in them giving Jemimah Rodrigues a go in that position in the second and third ODIs after Punam Raut's slow scoring in the first ODI played a part in parching India of urgency. Rodrigues, however, laboured to just 8 and 4 in the two innings.
"A young player - obviously, she (Rodrigues) will take some time," Raj said. "It's just matter of experience and exposure for players like her. When a player goes through bad form, as [fellow] players, seniors, and team management we can give her the confidence and the backing, but it boils down to the player herself to have that belief to come out of the [bad] form. Again, for a batter, it's just a matter of one innings to get the timing right and hope that as a young player she should get back in form.
"As far as the composition, right now we are going with five bowlers but something we are looking at is to have another allrounder in the side. But, then again, it cuts down a purist - whether a batter or a bowler. We are throwing some ideas. By the next series, we should see what sort of a pool of players we look at and get into the team."
Raj revealed that aside from Raut and Rodrigues, other batters were also in contention to be tried in the No. 3 slot.
"Now the series is over, but we do have a few names and players in our mind," Raj said. "Again, it's important that we need to see how they fit into the team. Purists are very few in the modern era of cricket. We need to look at the allrounders also and how the composition of the team will come is very crucial. But that's also an area we are looking at, No. 3 and even No. 6 and No. 7."
Though Raj retired from T20I cricket in 2019, India's performance in the third ODI, she said, would boost the confidence of the Kaur-led T20I team on whom the onus rests to add to India's four points gained so far in the multi-format series as opposed to England's six.
"Yes, it is [a confidence-booster]," Raj said, "because that's what I told the girls, I said - we're still in the series. Winning a game like this puts pressure on them. Getting into the T20s, the entire unit should be confident. If they go on to win the first two games and then the last would be a decider and clearly the series will be excitedly placed. Yes, I'm sure that the girls will do well in the T20 format."

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha