Mithali Raj

We are playing international cricket after more than a year and everyone is looking forward to that. But it’s not like we have been idle since the Quadrangular tournament in February.

In September the new domestic season started and this year we had two-day games for the inter-state tournament and the qualifiers for the nationals. Then in February for the first time we had the Challenger Trophy for women. The board had approached us once they planned the tournament and I was happy they wanted the same format that we wanted. The games were interesting because the national players were sorted into the three teams, so it wasn’t as if 10 India players were in one side, because then you can’t really find out how good a player is.

I keep an eye on any young talent coming up the ranks in domestic cricket. In fact anyone who plays well against my team, Railways, which is the strongest in women’s cricket, is someone who soon can make it to the national side. Lots of very young girls play against us in the domestic circuit.

In the months we are off before the season begins, we usually train individually. I have Nooshin Al Khadeer working with me in Hyderabad for South Central Railways so we hang out a lot and train together as well. Otherwise, when free, I like to catch up with my cousins, go for family get-togethers because as sports persons we don’t get to spend enough time with them while touring.

The Indian Premier League has been hogging the headlines all these days but we were at camp preparing for the Asia Cup and I didn’t have the energy to sit up late and watch the matches. Some of the younger girls are very enthusiastic and keep us updated. Next year we will be playing a Twenty20 World Cup alongside men but I think it’s important that a domestic tournament be organised so that the girls get used to playing Twenty20. Earlier it was just a bang-bang format but now there is a lot more thought going in to how to space your innings etc.

Looking ahead to the Asia Cup itself, I am happy it now has four teams, with Bangladesh entering the tournament for the first time. Asian cricket is no doubt improving. Pakistan have qualified for the World Cup which means there will be three Asian sides – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka – in Australia next year and that is a good thing.

I have been to Sri Lanka twice – in 1997 and 2004 - and it’s a wonderful place but the climate is too hot to step out. However when you’re in a different country you must take the chance of having a look around. You can sit at home when you’re in India. I’d love to try water-sports but I can’t swim! But roller-coaster rides in water parks are fun so if the team is game, we could do that.