India ODI captain Mithali Raj who has been playing international cricket for nearly 21 years now, hasn’t tasted the success the World Cup yet. She has seen a lot of ups and downs for women’s cricket in the country as well. She led the side twice in the 50-over World Cup final in 2005 and 2017 but failed to win.
In a recent chat with former Indian player turned commentator Sanjay Manjrekar for Cricinfo Videocast, Mithali spoke about her career and also the growth of the women’s cricket in India. India have seen great success after the 2017 World Cup where the stalwarts like Mithali and Jhulan Goswami’s contributions were commendable. However, Mithali Raj often referred to as a slow batter. She said that the circumstances gave her the tag. Moreover, it’s not unknown that she starts slow.
“When I started, I was an opener. In my second series, the 2000 World Cup, I batted No. 3 and the strike rate was good at that time because I did not have the burden of carrying the team around me. But after that from being someone who could score 50 off 40 balls, I became someone who would start slowly. No matter whichever level I played, it has always been like that because the team’s plan was that,” added the leading run-getter in ODIs with 6888 runs from 209 matches.
“I can’t deviate from that plan because the team wanted me to play in that way. With that kind of approach, I started scoring more runs. My role has been that for a long time. I think I was chained to a certain kind of role throughout my career,” further added Mithali.
Meanwhile, the ODI captain has also thought that women’s cricket in India has seen a lot of growth under the BCCI’s wings. Earlier, they didn’t have many facilities too.
“Coming under BCCI was a huge thing. Earlier, we played in grounds which were literally like farms. There were no decent training facilities for women cricketers in India. Under the BCCI, even the domestic matches, we play in international stadiums. That itself will elevate the players to perform well. Also, central contracts are in place now. For players from humble backgrounds whose family depend on them that’s a huge motivation to try and earn the central contracts,” Mithali Raj shared.
She further said that several academies and better facilities have helped youngsters to learn the game from an early age.
“These days, cricket academies enrol a lot of young girls. The beginners have access to personal coaching, one-on-one coaching, fielding coaching etc. You have access to turf wickets astro-turf and stuff like that. These things groom the players well to be an international cricketer,” she said.
Not only in ODIs, but India have done fairly well in the shortest format also. Under Harmanpreet Kaur’s leadership, India reached the final of the 2020 T20 World Cup for the very first time. Although they lost to hosts Australia, they have portrayed a great show. She also spoke about handling pressure in big occasions which has become a hurdle for India’s success.
Mithali said, “when it comes to the final, there are nerves. Both the final, the first steps we put were very shaky. In 2017 final, we lost the first wicket in the second over. In, 2020 T20 World Cup final, Deepti (Sharma) was given the first over, she bowled a couple of full-tosses.”
Mithali Raj also said that she will try to win the World Cup in 2021 for the one last time. “I am looking forward to 2021 World Cup (50 over). Want to try one last time to bring the World Cup trophy to India in 2021. I need to keep myself motivated for 2021. I just want people to continue to support women’s cricket.”