I probably had everything, except that one World Cup: Mithali Raj eyes fairy-tale end to glittering career

India ODI skipper Mithali Raj said the thought of winning the World Cup next year is what is keeping her motivated through this period of uncertainty. The 37-year-old, who has twice come close to the finish line (in 2005 and 2017), only to fall short, added that winning a World Cup will make her career feel complete.
“In 2013, when India hosted the world cup, we didn’t even qualify for the super six stage. I was hurt and quite disappointed,” she told Star Sports. “I thought let me give a try in 2017 World Cup. Then I really worked hard for that World Cup. As a player, as a captain, I did a lot of homework. I thought when we were in the finals, if we win the finals, then I will retire.”
“After playing for so many years, probably I had everything, except that one World Cup. In 2021 again I am going to give another try, hopefully with everybody’s wishes and God willing we should crack it.”
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In a career spanning over two decades, Mithali has risen to the top of the tree as the world’s most prolific ODI batter with 6888 runs at an average over 50. While she is undoubtedly one of the greatest players to have played the game, the right-hander admitted that cricket just “happened” to her – it wasn’t a career she chose for herself.
“Honestly cricket happened to me. It didn’t come by choice. I didn’t choose to get into cricket. You can see, my teammates, those who have different stories, like they played with their brothers and some of them were inspired by their brothers. They played in streets. But (for me) it was nothing like that. My dad took me to the academy there whatever transpired, and I was straight away into a full-fledged academy for girls.”
“I was too young to make a choice. If at that time somebody could ask a 10-year-old Mithali, what you want to become, I would have said that I wanted to become an IAS officer. Not a sportsperson, not a dancer. I always felt I had it in me to be an IAS officer.”
Having seen the Indian team through several transitions, Mithali, said Indian cricket would have been better off had the Board of Control for Cricket in India taken over the women’s game “five years before.”
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Mithali made her international debut in 1999 when women’s cricket was still run by the Women’s Cricket Association of India. Constantly searching for funds, the organisation struggled to provide the team with top notch facilities. It was only in 2006 that the BCCI took women’s cricket under their wing.
Mithali said this delay meant several talented players were lost to the system.
“Women’s cricket came under BCCI at the time of 2006-07. I feel if it had happened five years before, it would have been better. Many talented players at that time, because of lack of money, lack of financial stability through this game, they had to shift to different fields.”
“After turning 23-24, parents will ask what is next? So, being a woman cricketer what can you tell parents? I don’t earn money, I am playing for passion? Nobody will buy it. Because of that reason, a lot of talented people, they had to let go their profession (cricket).”
“So, at that time if BCCI was there, they would have added an extended career and we would have more pool of players in women’s cricket,” she concluded.