Mithali Raj: We have had 'good preparation' for 2022 World Cup by playing the three top teams this year

Mithali Raj shadow-bats before her turn UPCA

India Women are scheduled to play only one ODI series - against New Zealand - before the World Cup early next year but captain Mithali Raj feels the team has had "good preparation" so far in 2021.

This year, India hosted South Africa for five ODIs before playing a three-match series in England and Australia each. They lost all three series but made Australia, the No. 1 team, work really hard for their 2-1 win and also ended their 26-match winning streak in the third ODI there.

India will play World Cup hosts New Zealand for five ODIs before the World Cup in March-April.

"We have played three best teams since March and it has given us good preparation," Raj said after a partnership between KFC and Indian Deaf Cricket Association in Delhi on Wednesday. "Players have played domestic cricket and also in the Women's Big Bash so they are getting game time which is the most important thing.

"We are getting to play in New Zealand before World Cup which is also good."

India, who were unable to post 250-plus scores regularly earlier, did that twice in the Australia series and chased down 265 in the final ODI.

"When you play against a strong team in its backyard you try to give your best," Raj said. "Though we lost the series, the matches were very close. We scored 270 (274) and chased 270-odd, if we can do that consistently we will be among the best sides in world cricket."

India's middle-order batting needs improvement but Raj said all departments must fire as a unit if they are to win the World Cup.

"We bat as a unit so you can't pinpoint one area," she said. "There are times when the top order failed and the others performed. As a unit if we look to post a good total then it will help. If we focus on one area like middle order then it becomes too much of a burden for that particular slot."

India finished runners-up in the 2017 World Cup in England when not many expected them to but expectations will be higher this time.

"There were not enough expectations back then," Raj said. "Now in 2021, players have got experience and got a lot of exposure with the T20 leagues. Overall we have young players but they have got enough exposure. It is just of matter of gelling well as a team.

"Every match will be different there. The quicker we read our opponents the better it will be for us."