Now former India captain Mithali Raj took to social media on 8 June to announce her retirement after a glittering career that lasted 23 years. Over the course of her celebrated career, Raj scored over 10,000 international runs (becoming the first woman to reach the milestone) and also led her country to two World Cup finals.
Another former India captain, Anjum Chopra, played alongside Raj in 134 of the latter’s 333 international appearances. And the cricketer-turned-commentator, who has played over 150 international matches herself, lavished praise on the recently-retired Raj.
Chopra had the following to say about Raj’s two-decade-long career:
“She’s had a stellar career and she’s a wonderful player. Such longevity to her career is obviously remarkable. Well… she’s done really well, she’s brought accolades to the country and she’s done well personally as well.”
Further emphasising on the role that Raj has played in shaping women’s cricket in India, Chopra pointed out that her former teammate’s impact is such that she was granted the luxury of going out on her own terms, one that not everybody is afforded.
Chopra also chose to focus on the journey that Raj’s career has been rather than fixate only on the way it ended, calling it a “wonderful one”. She added:
“For every sportsperson it’s inevitable. You have to call it quits one day or the other. I think her decision of calling it quits is probably the time that she has decided that this is the time and not many people have that luxury of deciding when they want to quit. So it’s really nice. At the end of the day, it’s not about the moment she decided to quit but it’s about the journey that she’s had and I think that’s been a wonderful one.”
“This is a very natural progression” - Anjum Chopra on Harmanpreet Kaur being named India captain for SL tour
Following Mithali Raj’s retirement, the BCCI named Harmanpreet Kaur the ODI skipper ahead of the Indian women’s tour of Sri Lanka, in addition to her T20I duties. Anjum Chopra totally backed the board’s decision in this regard, adding that she was “happy” that the Moga-born all-rounder had been named the skipper of the side.
The 45-year-old also suggested that there was no doubt whatsoever in her mind that Harmanpreet would have to be named skipper when Mithali decided to hang up her boots. Here’s what she had to say about the newly-appointed ODI skipper and the direction the team would take under her leadership:
“I think that’ll be an interesting one (the direction the team takes under Harmanpreet Kaur) because look, I completely agree that Harmanpreet should have been made captain and I’m happy that she is. In my mind there was no doubt as to who should be ascended to this role once Mithali quits. This is a very natural progression even for Harmanpreet Kaur who’s been around this Indian team and has obviously been contributing as a match-winner etc”
Chopra also batted for the board’s decision to back a solitary captain for the team across formats. According to her, this would help the team establish their leader and allow them to attain a little more clarity ahead of a crucial period for women’s cricket in India. She added:
“I think the clarity of having one captain for all three formats is essential for the women’s team today. Look, they prepare for the T20 World Cup next year in South Africa. Before that, they’ll be playing a few one-day matches as part of the ICC Women’s One Day Championship so having Harmanpreet Kaur as captain just for this or maybe for the entire duration is really nice. Once you have one captain, the pack will follow that.”
“The roles of the players will change according to the format but it won’t change much. So they know who the leader is, who’s calling the shots and the style of captaincy and all will remain with Harmanpreet. How it unfolds we’ll have to obviously wait and watch. There’s no set gameplan as to what will happen but it is for everyone to wait and watch.”
Soon after Mithali Raj’s retirement was announced, the BCCI announced the squad that would tour Sri Lanka later this month. The teams will play 3 T20Is and 3 ODIs, in Dambulla and Kandy respectively, starting June 23. Just how well the team performs under the leadership of Harmanpreet Kaur remains to be seen.