Indian batter Punam Raut is one of the most experienced players in the Indian cricket team. She has a career spanning more than a decade with more than 100 matches under her belt. Punam Raut has been one of India’s consistent batters in the top order.
The Mumbai-based batter was the cynosure of all eyes in the recent past, with a roller coaster ride. An excellent series against South Africa was followed by a one-match horrid showing against England. And the Indian batter found herself warming the benches in the shorter formats of the game.
When India toured Australia for a full-fledged series in 2021, Punam Raut came back into the Indian team in the longest format of the game. In the process, she also displayed an exemplary sportsmanship spirit, walking off even though the umpire adjudged her otherwise.
In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Punam Raut spoke on the India vs Australia Test match. She also talked about upholding the spirit of the game, a women’s T20 league in India and more.
Speaking about the pink ball Test match against Australia, Punam Raut said the experience of playing in a Test match was exciting for the whole team. She said:
“It was an overall great experience, not just for me, but for the whole squad. We were excited and were looking forward to it for a long time as we were playing a Test match after a very long time. The Test match gave us a superb opportunity to showcase our talent as a team in the longest format of the game. We thank the BCCI for providing us with a platform to showcase our talent.”
Punam Raut said the Indian team approached the match with an open mind, devoid of any expectations. She added:
“There were honestly no expectations, no pressure ahead of the match. It was the first time we were playing with a pink ball. We didn’t know what to expect and that was a blessing in disguise as there was no pressure.”
The Indian batter said playing ODIs before the Test match was a blessing in disguise. It helped the Indian team understand and adjust to the conditions in Australia.
“Playing the ODIs before the Test match was good for us. It helped us become familiar with the conditions, the weather, the pitches, and the opponents etc. We also had two day-night ODIs which also gave us a fair idea of the conditions under lights. We carried those experiences into the Test match.”
With a lot of debate going on around the women’s Test match, Punam Raut felt the women’s game can also be played over five days, just like the men’s game. The Mumbai-based batter was also of the opinion that more the opportunities, the more it does to help improve the standard of women’s cricket in India.
“A five-day Test match would do wonders for the women’s game. Had we had a five-day game in Australia, who knows, we could have had a result and we would have been on the winning side too!”
Punam Raut and the spirit of cricket
Punam Raut, in the Test against Australia on day two, displayed utmost honesty when she walked back to the pavillion even after the umpire declared her not out.
India was on 217/2 in the 81st over, thanks to Smriti Mandhana's 127. Punam Raut tried to push a Sophie Molineux delivery outside off stump and ended up feather-edging it to wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy.
The Australian fielders went up but umpire Phillip Gillespie didn’t uphold the appeal. However, in a flash, Punam Raut walked off the pitch, rediscovering the long-lost art of walking in Test cricket.
It ignited social media and Punam Raut was lauded for her honesty. Talking about it, she said:
“I am fortunate enough to have a very long career. I have learned a lot from cricket. Cricket made me strong emotionally. By playing this sport, I have learned that nothing is permanent in life. There will be ups and downs and every day, every game is a new one. Cricket teaches you that balance and gives you that emotion. There have been hard times, there has been joy and ecstasy and cricket has helped me see both highs and lows.”
“Cricket has taught me to be honest. At the end of the day, I know that whether it is good or bad, it always revolves around you. We should never forget the spirit of the game and whenever or wherever we play, we have to play like champions. Champions do uphold the spirit of the game at all times. Sports have taught me so much that I know that I have to be true to myself.”
Punam Raut and the number three conundrum
Many experts believe Punam Raut can be India’s answer to the number three spot. Despite slow starts, Punam Raut is heavily experienced, with more than 100 international matches under her belt. She can play according to the circumstances of a match.
Punam Raut was India's highest run-scorer in the ODI series against South Africa in February this year, scoring 263 runs at a strike rate of 71.66.
Speaking about the number three spot, Punam Raut said:
“Being an opener or playing at No. 3 is a huge responsibility. In my opinion, the momentum of the game lies with the batter who comes in at No. 3. They have to cover up, build a partnership incase an early wicket is lost, and score quickly if the team is well set.”
There has been a lot of brouhaha over Punam Raut’s strike rate. Her slow starts have sometimes augured well and have backfired at times. However, with the stability the Indian batter can provide in the most important top-order slot, Punam Raut feels she has adapted to many situations with ease. She explained:
“I have adapted well to the one down position. I can also change gears at any time. I have an aggressive approach, laden with caution, as and when the team needs it. My strike rate has been good, according to me. One cannot define a strike rate in any match. It all depends on the situation.
'Many times, I have come very early (as a number three batter) in the game and I was given an anchor role. All I had to do was hang around there and the rest of the batters would revolve around me.”
After a bad outing against England, Punam Raut was dropped from India’s ODI team against Australia. With the World Cup round the corner, Punam Raut feels she is missing out on a spot in the Indian team and has been a little harsh on her.
“I am disappointed on not making the ODI team. I always thought I deserved a chance to be in the ODI team. I was the highest run getter in the series against South Africa. I had a good strike rate, if that is also taken into account. I feel I should be in the ODI team, too.”, she said.
Punam Raut bats for women’s T20 league
The Indian Premier League has surely lifted Indian cricket to the epitome of competitiveness and grassroots development. Punam Raut feels the time is already ripe for a women’s T20 league in India.
The BCCI have experimented with a three-team women’s T20 league, alongside the IPL play-offs in the last couple of years, with good success.
However, this year, with the Indian women’s cricket team touring Australia, the three-team T20 matches have not taken place.
Punam Raut opined that there is no dearth of talent for women’s cricket in India and said the T20 league should see the light of day at the earliest.
“The BCCI should be starting a women’s T20 league in India, on the lines of the Indian Premier League. We have so much talent in the country that we can start with six teams. We can form two teams with the number of probables who are selected to play for India. It's not like we don’t have women cricketers. There is so much talent that even the domestic Indian Railways team can have two teams.”
The Indian batter pointed out that the league would unearth a lot of hidden talent in India. This would also give a chance to budding cricketers to make a career and earn out of the league.
“The T20 league gives women cricketers a chance to earn, a chance to grow and be in the limelight. It can give confidence to the women cricketers that even though there are no jobs, there will be a chance to earn money.
'We must put it on record that the standard of men’s cricket has improved by leaps and bounds after the advent of the IPL. There are many players who have made it to the national team because of the IPL. The same can happen to women’s cricket also.”
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