Mumbai: Indian women’s cricket legend Mithali Raj said that she wanted to retire after the 2018 T20 World Cup controversy that saw her dropped from the team for the semi-final and her spat with then-coach Ramesh Powar become public.
“I wanted to retire after the World T20 2018 itself, but because of the controversy, I was not in the right space. The controversy lasted for close to three months, so I couldn’t give much thought to take this call (retirement) at that time,” Mithali said.
“When we toured New Zealand in January 2019 for T20s I spoke to the coach because he was discussing the plan for the T20 World Cup in 2020. And I thought it was wise for me to let him know my plan, as I wasn’t seeing myself playing the T20 World Cup in Australia. It was only appropriate for me to tell him that I was planning to retire after the T20 series in New Zealand.
“However, my dad wanted me to retire on home soil which is why I told the coach and chairman of selectors that the home series against England in March would be my last. I conveyed this to them in February during the New Zealand tour.
“So, the decision was made not considering what happened during the last T20 World Cup, it had nothing to do with it. When it comes to career, I am pretty practical about it. I don’t let my emotions affect my decision making. The decision was well thought of and not taken overnight and, contrary to what people speculate, it was nothing to do with any individual.
“I took time to deal with the controversy. Even though I am asked ‘why did you announce your retirement now?’ and ‘why couldn’t you announce your retirement after the England series?’ The answer is I made the decision in January, but I had to deal with those emotions.
“I didn’t want it to affect my decision and I didn’t want to regret or have a bad taste or ill feelings still lingering within me. I wanted to move on, that’s the reason I took time and I got that sort of free time only recently.”
Mithali also spoke in depth about the differences between women’s T20s now, as opposed to when the format was introduced and how it has helped the team become stronger. “Any new concept takes time for the players to understand and it was the same for us. The first year or two we didn’t know how to go about it,” she said.
“You have seen in the 2017 World Cup how we had scored more than 260-270 and even chased down such totals. The T20 format has helped ODI become much stronger. I believe that is one of the main reasons why a lot of people have started following women’s cricket because it is no more a game of 200 totals. The game is more interesting and competitive.
“The noticeable changes are that we get to see more sixes and more power cricket has come into the fold. With T20s being played on a regular basis, it has had a positive impact on cricketers’ fitness. It is important to be fit and it has become the topmost criteria to remain fit for any elite cricketer to play at the national level.”
When asked whether she had any regrets or unfulfilled desires from here career, Mithali said, “I don’t regret it particularly, but if I could have started opening the batting earlier than when I actually did in 2014, then I would have scored more runs. Otherwise, I think I don’t have any regrets.
“We could have also performed better in the 2016 T20 World Cup that happened in India because I always feel that World Cups are a big platform where you can inspire a lot of people. Especially when you’re the hosts, a lot of expectations ride on your shoulders.”
Mithali also mentioned that the T20 series win in Australia when she was captain was a “game-changer” for the team, highlighting that as the highest point of her T20 career.
And when she was asked what was the one thing she is going to miss the most, she simply summed it up, saying, “Opening the innings for India. I will always miss opening the batting.”