Did not expect to carry on for so long: Mithali Raj

21 years and still counting. Mithali Dorai Raj is unequivocally one of the greatest ambassadors of women’s cricket. The prolific right-hand batter is the highest run-getter in women’s ODIs and recently she added yet another feather to her cap when she became only the second woman cricketer after England’s Charlotte Edwards to score 10,000 international runs. She also became the first female cricketer to surpass 7000 ODI Career runs.

 

Mithali Raj gets to 7000 ODI Runs. PC: Twitter
Mithali Raj gets to 7000 ODI Runs. PC: Twitter

 

The 38-year old’s journey has been full of ebbs and flows. In an exclusive to G Krishnan for CricketNext, Raj talks about her cricketing journey and the challenges faced by women cricketers like her before the BCCI fully recognized women’s cricket in 2006. She stated that one of the primary reasons for her frequent injuries was the lack of proper training facilities in the initial part of her career.

Raj averred, “There were a couple of injury scares and I thought of retiring. I was suffering from pain physically. Before BCCI accepted women’s cricket in 2006, we did not have the facilities like we have today in that National Cricket Academy (NCA) where you have the physios and trainers understand your injuries to put you through rehab. There were a couple of times when I was actually contemplating retirement.”

Going back to the 2005 World Cup in which Indian ended up as the runners-up, Raj played the tournament in South Africa with pain as she got a ligament tear. Despite the terrible pain, she ended as the highest run-getter for India in the tournament with an aggregate of 199 runs in seven innings, including a couple of half-centuries. In her interview, she attributed the state-of-the-art facilities now provided by the BCCI to the remarkable difference in the fitness of women cricketers in India.

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Indian Women's Cricket Team. Pic Credits: ICC
Indian Women’s Cricket Team. Pic Credits: ICC

“I played the 2005 World Cup with a ligament tear. I keep telling people that Smriti (Mandhana) had a ligament tear and was still able to compete in the 2017 World Cup because she was in the NCA for good seven-eight months. Whereas, if any other player was in that position before the BCCI merger (with women’s cricket) happened, she would not have even played the 2017 World Cup. That is a huge difference for any player. The players are now looked after by the BCCI. When you go to the NCA, you are looked after well. That is something I had to face. With the support from my coaches and parents, I was able to get through that phase and am still continuing to play the sport.”

Raj further added, “Honestly, I did not see myself playing for so long. Because the injuries are not just the physical injuries that you endure. Every day, day in and day out, you are emotionally drained. Each time it gives you so much pain, and you know you have matches to play. And you know you are playing with so much pain. The regular trips to NCA and the support system I had really helped in recent times.”

During the interview, she admitted that she did not see herself playing for over two decades and was grateful to the facilities at the NCA and her support team for taking care of her in recent years.

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The article was first published on News18

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