London: India skipper Mithali Raj believes her team needs to reach an extra level on Thursdays as it prepares to face Australia at the County Cricket Ground for a place in the ICC Women’s World Cup final.
A last-game victory over New Zealand secured India’s place in the knockout stages, a performance that was arguably its best in the competition, bowling out the White Ferns for just 79.
But in Australia, it faces a side with a better head-to-head record, victorious in its group-stage meeting by eight wickets when chasing down 227 with just two wickets lost.
Raj starred in that clash, but she knows India must up its game on Thursday if it has to dethrone the current World Champion.
“The team has been doing well, any changes depend on the strip we are getting and what plans we have in mind for Australia because we’ve already played them once,” said Raj.
“Every loss gives us an opportunity to reflect on things that we can do better in the next game.
We have things we know we didn’t do well on the day and we are looking at those aspects, and also that a semi-final is one game that we have to pull off to make the final. Australia is a very good side, they are defending champions and a team that has been doing very well. To win against them requires more than what we have given so far, even the game in New Zealand, because we have to be the best we can as players to perform. To replace the No.1 side you have to be better than them,” she added.
Games between Australia and India have rarely been short of drama, with Southern Stars vice-captain Alex Blackwell is among those knowing what it takes to compete in the fixture.
As six-time champion, her side also has expectations to reach the final, where old rival England waits at Lord’s on Sunday, but Blackwell is adamant they cannot afford to look too far ahead.
“We’ve had some great battles with India over the years, and I certainly enjoying playing with the likes of Jhulan Goswami and Mithali Raj, players I’ve come against plenty of times,” said Blackwell.
“We’re going to have a real contest on our hands. The fact that we beat them in the group games is really promising and we know that we can play better, there were some really great things that happened in that game.”
“Everyone has chipped in, that’s been the good thing about her team, we haven’t relied on just one or two players and it’s all been shared around. We said it was going to be a really interesting tournament playing everyone once, now we get to play India for a second time and hopefully we’ll have that with England, but we can?t look too far ahead.”
India played the final of the World Cup only once in 2005 edition in South Africa, where they lost to Australia. The clash will also give India a shot at retribution to avenge their crushing eight-wicket loss to Australia in the round-robin stage just a week ago in Bristol.