INDIA: After asking for a sports psychologist in 2019, nearly after two years, the Indian women’s team has got one. On the eve of the first T20I against New Zealand, India’s ODI skipper Mithali Raj expressed comfort on the subject. Earlier, after India’s loss in the T20 World Cup 2020 final, Raj stated that a sports psychologist could help them perform better in world-class tournament knockouts. It feels that while every player has their ways to deal with the pressures of the game, having a professional guiding them one by one was a positive step forward.
According to sources, a Mumbai-based sports psychologist Dr. Mugdha Bavare has been appointed. She has previously worked with Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), the Bengal Ranji team, more than a few Olympic athletes & is presently in New Zealand with the Indian team.
Encouraging the decision, Mithali Raj stated, “I think every individual has their way of absorbing pressure, coming out and playing their best cricket. Having a sports psychologist traveling with the team this time around helps. She has one-on-one sessions with the players to give them more time to understand how to deal with their pressures and find ways that they can absorb and play their best cricket.”
Talking about bio-bubble life since the COVID-19 pandemic, Raj said, “In today’s time, it is even more important and helpful to have them around traveling with the team with longer durations of quarantines and bio-bubbles. Unlike before, where we get into the World Cup directly, we have a series where the tour is extended for two months. It does help to have a one-on-one session with them because you see things from a very different perspective, which helps you understand yourself and find your ways. Everyone has different ways of dealing with pressures and quarantine times, to have somebody address those issues is always helpful – more professional support.”
Insisting more game time, Raj quoted, “workload is in our minds. Still, having said that, rather than seeing two months, if you look at the games we are getting, it could be around five-plus or nine or 10 of the world cup games. We have a couple of more seamers on the side, so we’ll see how we can give them an opportunity. The workload is secondary right now but getting them to bowl in these conditions is important, so that’s where they need that game time to get on to the field and get two-three games to get used to the conditions.”
Meanwhile, England wicket-keeper batter Sarah Taylor had to retire from international cricket in 2019 due to mental health issues. 20-year-old emerging Aussie bowler Hannah Darlington has opted out of the upcoming women’s ODI World Cup due to mental health & wellbeing reasons. Aussie spin sensation Sophie Molineux had taken a break from cricket in 2019 due to the same reasons. Last year, New Zealand all-rounder skippers too had to stay away from the game due to anxiety & mental health concerns. In 2018, New Zealand cricketer Suzie Bates quoted that cricket is one of the worst sports for mental health. These instances prove the necessity & and importance of the decision.
Besides, India is all set to play a one-off T20I & five-match ODI series against New Zealand before starting their world cup schedule against Pakistan on March 6. Since their return to international cricket after a break of nearly one year, India has played only three series in March last year, one against South Africa at home, one against England in June-July, & one against Australia September-October both away from home. They couldn’t win a single white-ball series since their return.