Mithali Raj interview: "People looked at me differently because I played cricket"
Mithali Raj has remained a popular name in women’s cricket not just here in India, but across the world. Ranked the No.3 batswoman in the latest ICC women’s rankings, she is considered fierce with a willow and possesses the qualities of an iconic player for women. She is currently leading India in the Women’s T20 World Cup going on simultaneously in Sri Lanka.
Her life was not as glamorous as it is now back when she chose cricket as her career. From odd stares to weird questions, she’s borne the brunt of choosing a man’s sport. In a candid conversation with Sportskeeda.com, the 30-year-old Mithali talks about the changes women’s cricket has seen over the years.
You have been a part of women’s cricket for over a decade now. Was it ever hard for you to convince your parents about taking up cricket more so because it’s known as a man’s game?
When I started playing cricket, it didn’t go down too well with my relatives. My grandparents didn’t want me to pursue cricket. I was a classical dancer but cricket was what I enjoyed the most. The fact that I played the boy’s game didn’t go down too well with my family members but my parents were very supportive. Things got worse when I used to attend family gatherings as everyone would look at me differently. But once I started establishing myself in the sport, people took notice and things started changing.
What are India’s chances at this year’s World Cup?
Since this time the World Cup is in the sub continent, we are familiar with the conditions, which will definitely help us to do well. It would be great to win the Cup. The closest we have got to the title is a semifinal finish.
Have you seen women’s cricket evolve over the years?
Regarding the standards of the game, yes, it has evolved. There was a time when 150 on the board would be a decent total, but now teams have started scoring 250-300 on many occasions.
Do you think the T20 format would give women’s cricket the boost it requires?
Spectators do complain that the fairer sex plays a slow game. To attract crowds and money into the game, the T20 format is an ideal platform. It has been a big hit in men’s cricket and I am sure people would be curious to see how women play T20.
Men’s cricket involves a lot of sledging. Is it the same in women’s cricket?
Women’s cricket is not as aggressive as men’s cricket. There is no abusive language or bad talk. It’s more of competitive cricket. There is aggressive body language, but no sledging.
Has women’s cricket benefited after BCCI’s take over?
Yes. We get access to a lot of facilities, which only the men’s team had access to earlier. The state players are also able to make the most of the facilities. This would definitely help in improving the standard of women’s cricket from the grass root level.
Do you feel women’s cricket in India is neglected by the media?
There were times when we hardly had any media coverage. But it all changed after we won the Asia Cup four years ago. Suddenly, the media woke up and noticed our achievement. We got good coverage, and I am glad that it’s a different scenario now. People now know that women’s cricket exists.
Do you get attention from the opposite sex, just like the Men in Blue do?
(Smiles) To be honest, I don’t really get attention the same way that the men’s team gets from their female fans.
What would Mithali Raj be if not a cricketer?
I would have been in civil services. Though I loved Bharatanatyam and pursued it quite seriously, I would have loved to get into the civil services.
Is there anyone special in your life?
I have been in relationships before, but at the moment I am single and my focus is on doing well at the World Cup.
Will you continue to play cricket after getting married?
This is something that I have not given a thought about. But yes, if I remain fit and get enough support from my family then, of course, why not!