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Women's Cricket

It was disappointing to be dropped even after good performances: Punam Raut

Punam Raut opens up about her decision to walk, her being dropped and the state of women's cricket in India in an exclusive interaction with The Bridge.

Punam Raut India Women

Punam Raut in action for India (BCCI)


Abhijit Nair

Updated: 14 Nov 2021 10:01 AM GMT

The Indian women's cricket team's recently concluded tour to Australia was nothing short of a drama. Though the Indians lost the multi-format series 11-5, it was not before they put up an exceptional fight giving the Australians a scare at their home soil.

After falling to a heavy defeat in the first Women's ODI, the Mithali Raj-led side came close to bringing a halt to the Southern Star's world record 25-match winning streak in the format during the second match. Though they could not cross the line then, thanks to a controversial no-ball call in the last ball of the match, they broke the streak in the very next match with a brilliant all-round display.

This was followed by their first-ever Pink Ball Test Match, where the Indians dominated the rain-affected multiday game for a large part before settling for a draw due to lack of time.

A test match is a rare event in women's cricket. A Pink ball one even more so. And the only four-day match of the series in Carrara Oval, Queensland left the viewers gasping for more.

One of the biggest talking points of that particular match and the series was Indian batter, Punam Raut's, decision to walk despite having been adjudged not out by the on-field umpire. Mind you there was no DRS, and it made the 32-year-old's decision to walk even more respectful and baffling at the same time.

Raut's action divided social media into two divisions – one opining how she upheld the 'spirit of the game' and the other arguing how her decision was a 'disrespect to the umpire.'

"It happened instinctively because it was out and I knew it. It was a very fine edge that only the keeper and I could hear. I was absolutely sure the umpire would give it out and decided to walk off," Punam stresses in a video interaction with The Bridge.

Raut maintains that she was surprised with the call but by the time she realised she was given not-out she had already taken a few steps towards the dressing room.

"I was so sure I was out that I did not even look at the umpire. It was only after I took a few steps that I looked back and saw the umpire has not raised the finger. It was bizarre since I was certain I edged it and so I kept walking," she explains.

Though she earned quite a lot of praise for her decision, her teammates certainly displayed their displeasure when she reached the pavilion.

"I realised my actions will turn into something big right after I walked off the field. I could hear my teammates were not happy with my decision, which is fair enough because no one wants their set batter to be out. A couple of them even asked me why I decided to walk, but at the end, I knew I was out and decided to stand by what I know is right," Raut says with a wry smile.

The second debate that emerged from the same pink ball test match was whether the women's test match at the highest level should also be played over a duration of five days instead of four to make these rare games result oriented.

"I genuinely feel if it was a five-day match it could have been result-oriented. See, the first two days we basically did nothing. We were going to the stadium and returning without playing due to the rain. If we had one extra day, both we and Australia could have pushed a bit more a result and it would have been more fun. If we play more test matches in future, I would like it to be a five-day affair," Punam states.

"Disappointing to be dropped"

Raut started off 2021 on a great note. When the South African women toured India in March, she was one of the star performers in the ODI series. Raut not only scored runs at a good pace but scored them in loads. However, the joy did not last long as she played just one ODI when the Indians toured England before completely losing her spot in the starting 11 in Australia.

"It was disappointing, to be honest. Because I was scoring runs and was high on confidence. No one expects to be dropped when they are scoring runs. It would have been different if I was short on runs; this was different. This is how team games are and I have to accept that it is okay. The team wanted to try out new combinations and I had to sit out," said a rather disappointed Raut.

Punam Raut has been around for long. Having made her international debut in 2009 she is known for her comebacks, most notably just before the 2017 World Cup. The Mumbai girl is sure that she will be able to force her way back into the Indian playing 11 before the 2022 World Cup much like she did in 2017.

"See, I am pretty sure that I will get chances in near future. I believe I will be able to make it into the squad and even the 11 ahead of the World Cup. We have the New Zealand series and the domestic season before the World Cup and I just need to ensure that I score quality runs. I cannot select myself into the team; that is not my job. All I can do is score runs and keep doing it," says a motivated Raut.

"Strike Rate does not matter"

One of the criticisms Punam has faced during her career is the fact that her strike rate is very low and that she cannot score at a quicker pace. However, right from the South Africa series things have been a bit different this year.

"Yes, I have worked a lot on improving my batting and the increase in strike rate is just a result of that. People always point out my strike rate, but tell me what a good strike rate in women's cricket is? 80? See, I believe if you play 5 pure batters in a team, it is the duty of at least one of the five to bat at least until the 40th over. And to do that I have played slow in the past because I am out in the middle by seventh over at max," Raut asserts.

However, she is quick to point out that she still has a lot to improve.

"I know I have to improve on the strike rate front, but people need to understand if all the five main batters of the team go out and try to play at a strike rate of over 100, we are bound to have a collapse and we cannot always rely on our lower middle order to bail us out. If you look India's average score in ODIs has been in the 250-260 range and that has happened when one of the top 5 has scored big. So I personally do not focus much on these things, but yes I am trying to improve," she points out.

"Women's Cricket has improved"

One of the more experienced players in the current Indian setup, Punam Raut believes that the women's sport in India has changed a lot compared to the time she started out.

"A lot of things have improved for good. Now we have a decent domestic structure, though the number of matches we play is less compared to men. But, it is better than what it was. We play 9-10 ODI matches and the same number of T20s in a domestic season. We also have practice matches nowadays before any domestic tournament. The younger girls are getting exposure on 'A' tour – take Yastika Bhatia or Meghna Singh for example. Why did they do well in Australia? Because they have played 'A' matches and know what to expect when they play at the highest level. 2017 World Cup changed a lot for women's cricket, but there is still a long way to go."

"Women's IPL is the need of the hour"

The conversation then naturally takes a turn towards hosting a Women's IPL. Punam Raut firmly believes even a five or six-team Women's IPL will improve the sport in India by a lot.

"Women's IPL is what we need. We have seen it in the Indian men's team. The youngsters who make their international debut are fearless. Why? Because they have played with all these big names in the IPL. We need something of that sort for women. Players who are unable to make it into the Indian team or players who have been dropped from the Indian team will have a platform to prove themselves if we have IPL," she says.

Raut absolutely rubbished the 'lack of talent' arguments and asserted that India is in a good state to host a full-fledged IPL for women.

"We have loads of talented players. Only because our matches are not televised does not mean there is a lack of talent. This is the reason why people know only those 15 who have made it to the Indian squad and those toiling in the domestic circuit go unnoticed. This is where a Women's IPL will make the difference. We have enough talent in the country to start a five or six-team IPL," maintains Raut.

"Tests over T20s"

For the first time ever a total of eight Indian players have made the cut to the ongoing edition of the Women's Big Bash League (WBBL). Raut believes this is a blessing for Indian cricket and the experience those eight players will gain in Australia will in turn help India in near future.

"The standard of the WBBL is very high compared to the other women's leagues. It feels so great that all these players have gotten this opportunity this year. It is a positive sign for Indian cricket, but at the same time, we should not really be carried away with this. T20 is a great format, but if the upcoming players just keep playing that it will not help in all-round development of their game," she said.

When asked what she would prefer – a full-fledged Women's IPL or more Women's Test Matches, Punam Raut had a straightforward answer.

"Definitely test matches. It is the pinnacle of cricket. Being on the field for four-five days is not easy. And by test matches, I do not mean one-off matches like what we played recently, by test matches I mean at least a couple of series of three or four test matches every year. This will help in bettering our skills. Even on the domestic front, we need to have multiday matches. Ranji Trophy is revered in men's section, we need something like that to look up to."

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