I might have normalized girls playing cricket in the street: Mithali Raj on his legacy | Cricket News



NEW DELHI: The feeling of being called a ‘former India captain’ has yet to sink in as Mithali Raj hasn’t exactly gone through a range of emotions after ending his glittering 23-year career last week.
Mithali knew her time had come after the 2022 World Cup in New Zealand, but since she doesn’t like to make big decisions on the fly, the 39-year-old waited a few months before announcing her retirement.
In an exclusive interview with PTI, arguably India’s biggest women’s cricket icon spoke on a range of questions covering her heritage, her playing experiences before and after the BCCI era, the team’s “inconsistent run” at the five years, “the differences in the dressing room” at the 2022 World Cup, and the ‘Gen-Next’ of Indian players.
Q: It’s been a week since you announced your retirement. Has it sunk again?
A: Honestly, the idea of ​​my retirement first came to mind when Rahul Dravid retired (in 2012). I saw his press conference, he was quite emotional and then I thought what it would be like when I retire. Will I feel this emotion?
And there were few other retirements after that and I hoped I wasn’t so emotional. I was very clear in my mind that the World Cup was going to be my last. But I’m not someone who makes decisions while I’m going through a lot of emotions (which she did in the World Cup).
Then I went to the T20 national event and realized I didn’t have the same passion and thought it was my time (to retire). I am a goal oriented person. The World Cup was my goal. After that, I didn’t see myself for the next four years, so I thought it was a good time to retire. Sometimes you feel the impact of things after a while. So it still hasn’t flowed.
Q: Millions of girls look up to you for what you’ve done on the court. What do you think has been your greatest legacy?
A: I have often been asked questions about my heritage, but I have never found a good answer. I think I probably would have normalized girls playing street cricket and enrolling in academies. It wasn’t very common when I started playing. They said ‘we don’t take girls to our academies, you take them somewhere else’.
Now, there is no academy that can be called an all-male academy that doesn’t allow girls to play. It gives me a lot of satisfaction. The academy I went to, which I was told was a boys academy, the same place enrolls so many girls.
Q: From journeys on reservationless trains to trips around the world in business class, you’ve seen it all in the pre and post BCCI era in women’s cricket. How do you view the two worlds?
A: Both had their own charm. I also had a lot of fun in the pre-BCCI days. It was very different even though the resources were barely there, but there were other aspects of the sport that we really enjoyed.
“We were in the dark, no one knew us but I was still having so much fun at that time. When BCCI took women’s cricket under its wing, professionalism entered the game. BCCI brought stability, security and growth to our game.
Q: It seems that even in adversity, you found ways to have fun back then?
A: “Well, we all lived in dorms. If we were playing a tournament at a school and they used to be in the summer, sometimes we would take over the classroom and stay there.
“You always found ways to play sports even if the circumstances weren’t good. There was nothing like rich and poor kids, we were all on the same bus. There was so much sharing between them because there were no cell phones, no social networks, we only had our teammates to bet on.
Now we are in five-star hotels and as soon as the match is over, everyone goes back to their room or phones each other. If I have to strike up a conversation, most girls, I find them using their phone. As soon as the game ends, they are all on the phone (laughs).
I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s just that times have changed. It was more carefree back then.
Q: Is there room to bring more professionalism to the sport?
A: With every TV series, with the upcoming women’s IPL, it’s only going to get better. The franchisees will have their own set up and the players will benefit from evolving in a professional league, rubbing shoulders with international stars.
Q: Would it be fair to say that the Indian team’s chart went down after peaking in 2017?
A: . Every good team, once they’ve finished the World Cup, they start to rebuild for the next edition, find players for specific roles and give them visibility and all that. The loss of a year due to the pandemic did not help. But I still wouldn’t give that as an excuse for our World Cup performance.
But you have to realize that when we introduce certain new players to the team, sometimes the transition is smooth and sometimes it takes time. It’s not easy for teams to come out of long quarantines and perform at their best.
From last year’s South African series, our spin department was indifferent at times. It really shook us up. Because we rely on them a lot.
Q: Were there reports from New Zealand during the World Cup that all was not well in the dressing room?
A: When you play a team sport, there are differences and disagreements. It’s very natural. They all want to do good but each has a different opinion.
But as captain, even if things are difficult, I can’t lose my temper, my vision for the team must be clear. By letting my emotions drive, I wouldn’t end up focusing on the things I want the team to work on.
Even though people think I’m calm, passive, I’m not aggressive, but calm has helped me focus on the important things and maintain a sense of calm in the team to help players focus on what is important.
Q: In the future, which players do you think will serve India for a long time?
A: Kiran Navgire is one to watch. She did well in the National T20s and Women’s Challenge. In the Indian team, you have Yastika Bhatia, Richa Ghosh and Shafali Verma. S Meghana has done well in the few opportunities she has had.
If you want your bench to be stronger, you have to give young players a chance to grow.
Q: Would you be willing to play in the Women’s IPL next year?
A: It is still too early to decide. We’ll see.
Q: Do you intend to go into cricket administration or start your own business?
A: I have some things in mind. There are some offers but as always I will choose something that I find fulfilling and sport related.


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