Mithali Raj has been the bedrock around which the Indian women’s batting have evolved over many years now. The 32-year-old Jodhpur-born top-order batswoman has been a great servant of Indian women’s cricket over the years, featuring in 10 Tests, 153 ODIs and 47 T20s. Recently bestowed with the coveted Padma Shri award, the Indian women’s cricket captain spoke in an exclusive interview.
Here are some of the excerpts from the interview.
Q You have played for the country for more than fifteen years. How does it feel winning the covered Padma Shri award?
Well, it was totally on unexpected lines. I was pitted against Virat Kohli and I did not think initially that I would have any chance of winning the award. I’m really grateful to the government of India for recognizing my services to Indian cricket. I’m confident that such awards will motivate the youngsters taking up women’s cricket.
Q You played 10 Test matches and 153 one-day internationals over a fifteen year period. Talking of Test matches, India has been playing fewer Test matches over the years. India played two Tests against England and South Africa in 2014 and prior to 2014, India did not play a single Test match for eight years since the tour of England in 2006. Why are India playing lesser number of Test matches?
I think the ICC is focusing more on one-dayers and T20s since they are attaining more popularity and I guess that’s the reason why they are keeping Test matches on hold.
Q How do you assess the domestic structure of women’s cricket in India?
There is a huge need for more tournaments at the domestic level. Our domestic program runs for around two months and if we are to be the world’s best we must have more tournaments throughout the year. Holding camps is fine but match practice is equally important for the betterment of women’s cricket in India.
Q The Women’s Cricket Association of India (WCAI) was merged with the BCCI in 2006. Have things changed for women cricketers after the BCCI took over?
BCCI has been great in offering facilities all across the country. Our girls can train in the National Cricket Academy (NCA) and we have access to all facilities. We get paid also to play for the country unlike when we played under WCAI. WCAI used to have domestic games throughout the year, where under BCCI the number of domestic tournaments is not that many and this is where we would want the board to stage more domestic tournaments.
Q How do you assess the talent pool of women’s cricket in India?
There is no paucity of talent in the country. India have a huge population and talented youngsters are always going to come up through the ranks. The point is if we have more domestic tournaments youngsters will gain experience quickly and be international material in a year or so, whereas when you have lesser domestic tournaments, these youngsters will take three-four years to gain experience and handle the pressures of international cricket.
Q Indian eves pulled off a famous win over England in Wormsley last year. It was the country’s only second Test win over England after their maiden win in 2006. You hitting the runs in 2006 and this time around you played a crucial knock to facilitate the win. How do you describe the two wins in England?
Well, in 2006 I was a young captain and had a fairly experienced side. This time around, besides, me, Jhulan Goswami and Karuna Jain, all were making their debuts. So the experience factor was missing this time, but we did well to pull it off.
Q There is a line of thinking that there are not enough jobs for women cricketers in India. Railways is known to recruit women players on a large scale. Your thoughts.
Railways has been doing a great job of recruiting women cricketers. I’m not sure but have heard that Services are recruiting women cricketers. Of course, there is a need for other government entities to hire women cricketers.
Q You made your ODI debut in 1999 and Test debut in 2002. How long you do you think you can continue playing for India?
A lot depends on my how my body shapes up. I want to play in the 2017 World Cup to be held in England. India failed to qualify for the Super Sixes of the last World Cup and I want my country to do well in what could be my final World Cup campaign.