In the twilight of an epic career, as she eyes one last hurrah at next year’s ODI World Cup, India skipper Mithali Raj says her hunger for runs remains the same as it was 22 years ago and she is trying to add “new dimensions” to her batting.
On Saturday, Mithali cracked an unbeaten 75 off 86 balls to earn India a consolation four-wicket win in the third and final ODI against England at Worcester. Along the way, she became the highest run-getter in women’s international cricket across formats, going past England captain Charlotte Edwards‘ tally of 10, 273 runs. Mithali now has 10,337 runs in her kitty, with 7,304 runs in ODIs. No other batter has more than 6,000 runs in women’s ODIs.
It was her third consecutive half-century in a series where her colleagues have struggled, with the next highest score being 44 by Shafali Verma in the second ODI.
Recalling her more than two decade-long journey, the legend said: “The way things have gone, it wasn’t an easy journey. It had its trials and challenges. I always believed that trials have a purpose,” she said at a post-match virtual presser.
The 38-year-old made her debut at Milton Keynes against Ireland on June 26, 1999. Interestingly, she was exactly as old as the great Sachin Tendulkar-16 years and 205 days-when she played her first international game.
Along the way, there have been controversies, and phases where she got a feeling that she was being sidelined, forcing her to think about quitting, but she kept going on. “There were times when I wanted to give up for various reasons but something kept me going and here I am, 22 years of international cricket, but the hunger for runs has never sort of dried up,” she said.
While critics feel she doesn’t bat at the pace which the modern game demands, Mithali is focused on adding more strings to her bow. The way she changed the pace of innings- taking her time to get her eye in before batting freely in the end -in the chase on Sunday was remarkable. “I am still very passionate to go out there, be there in the middle and win games for India. I know there is still room for improvement in terms of my batting and that is something I am working on… There are certain dimensions I would like to add to my batting,” she said.
Having retired from the hustle-bustle of T20 cricket in 2019, Mithali now relishes the role of being the bulwark of the batting, using all her experience to help the team. How well India fare in the Women’s ODI World Cup, to be held in New Zealand from March 4 to April 3, will depend on how she performs. It will be her swansong, and there’s no doubt that she would like to bow out of the international stage with one major trophy, just like Tendulkar did when he played his part in India’s 2011 World Cup triumph.