Exclusive: Punam Raut reveals why players are always on their toes in Railways side after their 13th title win

Exclusive: Punam Raut reveals why players are always on their toes in Railways side after their 13th title win
© Provided by DNA

Nothing new, Railways won another edition of the Women’s Senior One Day Trophy, their 13th to be exact and second of 2021. In 15 completed editions of the competition, only twice the Railways have not emerged as the winners, in 2011-12 when Delhi won it and in 2018-19 when Bengal had their hands on the silverware.

The 11-time champions won their 12th title in April earlier this year when the 2020-21 edition was postponed beating Jharkhand in the final and restricted Karnataka to a paltry total of 74 runs and winning the final of 2021-22 edition by eight wickets.

One of the senior members of the Railways outfit and an important part of the Indian team as well, Punam Raut spoke to DNA talking about the main reasons why Railways have done so consistently in this competition and why players love playing for the team.

Talking about how it felt winning two trophies in space of six months, Raut said, “Feeling is absolutely very good because it’s always been a pleasure to play for Railways and win the trophy every year. Actually, it was our 13th title out of 15. It was great to see team is continuously and consistently performing well and winning the trophy for Railways.

‘Its fun as well as challenging to play for Railways’

Raut said that it’s not just senior players like herself or skipper Mithali Raj that are performing, but the youngsters like S Meghna, Nuzhat Parveen have performed so well and winning a title is a great motivation for all the players to do well.

The middle-order batter said that the club gives them required leaves as well and the facilities they provide along with all the special leaves and offs, Railways takes good care of their players and it motivates them to give back to them and what better way than some silverware at the end of the competition.

Given so many India players and promising youngsters in the side, Raut mentioned that there is fierce competition amongst the group but no one takes it as a competition and instead enjoy each other’s company and revel in their success, which is why players want to play and do well for Railways.

Talking about why there is extra pressure on players playing for Railways, Raut explained the difference between a state side and a Railways team. 

“It’s not easy to play for Railways as there are so many India players in the side and despite that, you have to be in the XI and perform consistently, after which you’ll become part of the Indian XI for a longer duration.

“However, that’s not the case with the state side. I’ll tell you the difference between state team and the Railways team. In a state team, one, two, or a maximum of 3-4 India players are there on one side so they know that they will definitely play but that’s not the case with Railways.

“In Railways, there are several match-winners in your side, so you can’t take your place for granted. We go through that pressure in Railways. We are always on our toes, that I have to perform and be in the team then only we will get chance for India,” Raut further added.

A tournament that belonged to the bowlers

It was the tournament for the bowlers this time around as the likes of Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh, D Hemlatha and Sawgatika Rath were taking wickets left, right and centre. While the first two ended up with nine wickets each, the last two had eight scalps to their name each. Railways chased a score above 180 only once and Raut was not too disappointed with not getting much chances to bat as the team was winning.

In six innings, she got the chance to bat, she returned unbeaten thrice with the highest of 59* against Odisha. Not just less opportunities, Raut also floated around in the batting order as she batted at No 6 in the quarter-final against Odisha, while opening in the final.

‘Have the ability to bat anywhere till No 5’

Talking about the same, Raut said that she has the ability to play at any number till No 5 in the order as she has the game for it and having played T20 cricket too, she is happy to float around if the team needs it. Elaborating specifically on why she batted at No 6 in that game, Raut said, “I was supposed to bat at No 3 in that game actually but we had a good opening partnership (158 runs between S Meghna and Nuzhat Parveen) in that game and rain prediction was there and we needed some quick runs.

“We were scoring a 4-5 runs per over at that point and we needed to score at 6 runs per over and since rain prediction was there, if half match was called off the opposition team would have got the same amount of overs as we got, which is the order was shuffled as we needed someone to bat like in T20s.”

While several players will be taking part in the upcoming Challenger trophy, the eyes now are on the New Zealand series, which will serve as a dress rehearsal for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2022.

‘Need opportunities to at least prove myself and know where I need to improve’

Punam Raut, who last played an ODI in the England series in June said that she is feeling confident about her form but rued the lack of opportunities in the last few months. 

Raut said that since the coach was changed, she got only one opportunity to showcase her talent and had to do everything in that one game only. Mentioning that being a senior player now, having played over 10 years, how much more she can prove and even if she does, she needs to play to prove.

When asked if it increases pressure, Raut said, “Of course, the pressure does mount when the player has to prove herself again and again. Because, when you are left out of the side despite doing well, it does hurt.

“The player goes on the back foot as he/she has to get game time to know where they are going wrong and how can they improve. A player like me, who has been playing for over 10 years, how much that player will prove again and again when I am already scoring runs. 

“So I was left with only domestic season, that these are the games I have and I have to do well. At the international level, till the time you don’t get a chance to play, how will you prove yourself and this keeps you in a confused state,” she added.

Raut was coming off from a sensational first half of 2021 into the England series with a century and two half-centuries in the South Africa series at home, while scoring a few important knocks in the domestic cricket in April, but since then she played only one ODI, out of the six played.

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