Mithali Raj’s passion for runs hasn’t changed in 22 years, and she’s attempting to add “new dimensions” to her batting for a final hurrah at the ODI World Cup in New Zealand next year.
Mithali Raj became the all-time leading run-scorer in women’s cricket on Saturday, guiding India to a consolation four-wicket win against England in the third and final One-Day International. She scored an unbeaten 75 off 86 balls.
“The way things have gone it wasn’t an easy journey. It had its trials and challenges. I always believed that trials have a purpose,” she said about her journey that started in Milton Keynes against Ireland in June 26, 1999.
“I am still very passionate to go out there, be there in the middle and win games for India. I know there is still room for improvements in terms of my batting and that is something I am working on… There are certain dimensions I would like to add to my batting…” she said at the virtual post-match press conference.
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Mithali, who retired from T20 cricket in 2019, has suggested that the 2022 Women’s ODI World Cup, which will be hosted in New Zealand from March 4 to April 3, will be her final appearance.
The 38-year-old right-hander said she is presently enjoying the position of mentor while performing her responsibilities in the team’s batting unit, despite her extensive experience. “Batting has always been a role play for me in the team, the sort of role that’s assigned to me over the years — taking the responsibility of the batting unit and play throughout.”
“…trying to help them also to understand the situation and how to play in these conditions. The entire batting unit revolves around me, that’s the job that is given to me by the coach and team management,” she added.
Raj praised all-rounder Sneh Rana, with whom she had a crucial 50-run seventh-wicket partnership on Saturday, and said she has a promising future. “Need to give credit to Sneh Rana because that partnership was very crucial. Definitely, at that slot, we have always looked for somebody who has the shots to clear the field, strong shots all around and it helps to have a player who can also bowl.”
“So its good to have her in the side and she is definitely showed that she has the character to become a good player. In modern cricket, all-rounders play a very important role in composition of the team,” she added.
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Harmanpreet Kaur, Raj’s deputy and T20 captain, is expected to recover her form shortly. “It does happen with any player,” Mithali said of Kaur’s lean patch. “Sometimes you’re just not in form. But as a team and as a unit we back players who have been match-winners. We also know that single-handedly she has won games for us with her innings. This time around she needs the support of the team to back her.”
She also encouraged Jemmimah Rodrigues to reclaim her shape. “A young player – obviously, she (Rodrigues) will take some time. It’s just matter of experience and exposure for players like her,” she said.
Mithali believes the team’s performance in the third ODI bodes well for the three-match T20 series, which begins on July 9 in Northampton.
“Yes, it is a confidence-booster because that’s what I told the girls, I said – we’re still in the series. Winning a game like this puts pressure on them. Getting into the T20s, the entire unit should be confident,” she said.