Mithali Raj has enormous experience in international cricket with 10 Tests, 189 ODIs and 68 T20Is to her name. She made her debut in 1999 and has been the backbone of the Indian women team since then.
Recently, India defeated South Africa 2-1 in the ODI series under her leadership and then defeated the hosts 3-1 in the five match T20I series, with Mithali winning three Player of the Series awards. Hindustan Times caught up with Mithali Raj for a chat and here are excerpts from the interview.
Talking about her approach towards T20I cricket, Mithali said, “T20 is a high-intensity format. One needs to adjust to the format and make the most of it. I last played in the T20 format back in 2016 during the Asia Cup. Since then, I brought changes in the T20 batting approach. I worked hard to bring my game a notch up for the T20 challenge. It was wonderful to get under some runs against South Africa in the T20 series. I enjoyed and relished playing T20 cricket. With a lot of T20 cricket ahead in the season leading to World Cup in the Caribbean, I am pumped-up.”
Mithali admitted that Harmanpreet Kaur being the captain in T20I format has helped her play freely in the format.
She said, “I won’t say that I have rediscovered my batting abilities but I have prepared hard to adjust to the nature and demand of modern-day cricket. The pressure to do well individually under difficult circumstances is always there. It never goes off. But yes, not being the captain gives me time to read, try out new cuisines, relax, listen to music and meditate off the field. I am not thinking about the strategies all the time.”
Mithali paired up with young Jemimah Rodrigues in the deciding T20I against South Africa and spoke about the youngsters in the team.
Mithali opined, “They are at a very initial stage of international exposure. It was refreshing to see them come good on foreign soil. I think they need to play against top teams like Australia and England ahead of the T20 World Cup in order to get ample quality exposure. Australia and England are strong teams and will arrive in India with good amount of cricket experience behind them. Having won the ODI and T20 series against SA has raised our confidence. It would be exciting to take on England after the World Cup final loss.”
Mithali was also asked about BCCI thinking about a Women’s T20 League and to gauge the interest of the viewers, will have some exhibition matches during the upcoming IPL 2018.
Mithali answered, “It would be incredible if such a T20 league transpires in India. Post the 2017 World Cup, popularity of women cricket has gone high. The television ratings of the World Cup show people really loved seeing the ladies in action. And if games like badminton, kabaddi, wrestling, football etc can have their own leagues then why not women have an IPL-type T20 league. We have been asked for our suggestions for the development of the sport for women in the past and we have contributed too. It has been a week since the Indian team landed in India from South Africa. We will see in the coming days how things go in this direction.”