Mithali Raj heaped heavy praise on Sneh Rana who has been phenomenal for India ever since making her comeback to international cricket. The 27-year-old all-rounder picked up four wickets and crafted a match-saving 80* in the second innings of the one-off Test against England last month. That was her first international match since February 2016.
Rana also made a solid impact in the third and final ODI on Saturday (July 3). The offspinner first took the vital wicket of England opener Lauren Winfield-Hill in the first innings and then also played a cameo of 24 off 22 balls at No. 7. Rana stitched together a match-winning stand of 50 off 40 deliveries with Mithali and helped India win the final ODI by four wickets.
"Definitely, yes. 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," Mithali said when asked about Rana emerging as a formidable choice as an allrounder.
"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.
"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."
Things have gone well so far for Rana in England but the same can't be said about Harmanpreet Kaur and Jemimah Rodrigues. Harmanpreet has so far managed scores of 4, 8, 1, 19 and 16 on this tour, while Rodrigues could only score 12 in the two ODIs she played.
"It does happen with any player. 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," Mithali said of Harmanpreet's lean patch.
"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."
Talking about Rodrigues, Mithali said: "A young player - obviously, she will take some time. 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."
Mithali, who retired from T20I cricket in 2019, said that the performance in the third ODI will give Harmanpreet and Co. some confidence ahead of the three-match T20I series, starting from Friday (July 9). The Women in Blue have so far gained four points in the multi-format series as opposed to England's six.
"Yes, it is (a confidence-booster) 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."
Mithali's hunger for runs remains the same as it was 22 years ago and she is trying to add "new dimensions" to her batting for a one last hurrah at next year's ODI World Cup in New Zealand.
"The way things have gone it wasn't an easy journey. It had its trials and challenges. I always believed that trials have a purpose. There were times when I wanted to give up for various reasons but something kept me going and here I am 22 years of international cricket but the hunger for runs have never sort of dried up.
"I am still very passionate to go out there, be there in the middle and win games for India. I know there is still room for improvements in terms of my batting and that is something I am working on... There are certain dimensions I would like to add to my batting. Batting has always been a role play for me in the team, the sort of role that's assigned to me over the years -- taking the responsibility of the batting unit and play throughout."