With the global pandemic affecting matches and training, teams' preparation for the ICC Women's Cricket World Cup scheduled in New Zealand early next year has taken a hit.
India ODI captain Mithali Raj, however, believes this has only made the field more open for the tournament. "Access to gyms is restricted and play has been put on hold. So the 2021 World Cup is pretty much open and there are no favourites," Raj told Sportstar in an Instagram live chat.
The skipper also believes her side is stronger than the one that fell heart-breakingly short in the 2017 final against England at Lord's. "Teams don’t take us lightly anymore," Raj said. "Consistently beating the best sides in the world ... has given us the confidence that we too are a side to beat."
India are among the top four teams on the ICC Women's Championship, who, along with the hosts, have qualified automatically for the tournament. Raj, 37, has made no secret of her desire to add a World Cup win to a glittering career, having fallen just short in 2005 and 2017. She retired from T20Is to focus on her goal, and as someone who plays only one format, she knows how crucial fitness will be for her to perform at her best in the tournament.
"Fitness, at my age, is something I need to consciously and constantly keep up. I know I can’t forget my skill – I still have some batting in me. I might need a few sessions to get my rhythm going.
"Some of us have running space while others like me have to manage within the restricted spaces indoors, so our trainers are adapting routines for us. (Coach) WV Raman is trying to be creative with our skill training regimen," she explained. "It is difficult because irrespective of how much we train indoors, we need to get out onto the ground to be fully prepared."