In a conversation with Mithali Raj, Indian Women’s Cricket Team captain, what one finds is that, she is as much a humble soul with an excessive love for sports, as an aggressive batsman on the ground. The sportswoman, who is an inspiration to many, was in Chennai to attend the third edition of the Radiant Wellness Conclave, which also had Sashi Tharoor as the keynote speaker. In Mithali’s address to the audience, she had a lot of motivating messages to the upcoming sportswomen. In a casual chat after her session, the cricketer answered many personal and professional questions with ease and enthusiasm. Read through to find out more!
Q What has changed from 2005 to 2017, when you led the Indian women’s cricket team?
Nobody knew our journey then, but this time everyone did! In 2005, we didn’t have many facilities like these days. There was no access to academies. If players were hurt, they were just out of the team. Trainers and physiotherapists are excellent now. Even injured players are taken good care of and they come back and play. This time (2017), ICC has promoted the game well. It wasn’t even televised previously. It was hosted in South Africa and media couldn’t come there to write about it. After 10 years, I know I can playback my 2017 game. A lot has changed, for the better, since then with the technology and the board that takes care of the players well.
Q You led a team of eight debutantes in their first international test match, with just three experienced players. How was the experience?
It was the most challenging experience ever as a captain. I was playing a test match after eight years. The other eight were making their debut, that too in English conditions. It was really hard for them, but the interesting part is that we won and beat England. My first match was a draw, but theirs was a win. That’s when I felt good about being a leader.
Q Do you find time to play with your father and brother like you used to during your childhood?
I wish I could, but both of them stopped playing — dad after he retired from the Air Force and brother after he got busy. It’s just reminiscences of the good old days I’m left with! Dad only pushed me into playing cricket and my family encouraged me till I achieved and they still do. Not everyone gets such supportive parents!
Q You are a trained classical dancer too. Can we see you performing anytime?
When I had to make a choice, I had to actually choose between cricket and dance — and I chose the former. I thought, that if I get an early retirement, I might try dancing again. But I’m still playing, so dancing won’t come anytime soon.
Q Does your book reading habit distract you from the real life?
I started reading from a very young age. It does keep me relaxed. During the match, if I’m reading a book, it’s not that I am unaware of what’s happening around me. I do have it in mind and I don’t want to be nervous in a tense situation and I just feel like reading.
Q Your partner on ground and a friend in real life — Jhulan Goswami — has been your pillar of strength in the team. How has your journey been with her?
I made my entry in 1999 and she made hers in 2002. We grew along as players. She took my wicket first, when we met at a tournament. And that’s how it started... It’s not easy to be a fast bowler and have a long career like hers. She’s gone through many challenging times as well. We can relate to each other a lot. When most of them from the team have retired and become coaches and trainers, yet you have someone your age, always with you, it feels great!
Q Do you follow the careers of PV Sindhu, Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal and other female sportspersons?
I don’t follow sports exactly, but I do keep track of their achievements and I’m proud about the laurels they are winning for the country. I extend my wishes to them for their brilliant records.
Q You say that psychology is a very important tool in any sport. Can you elaborate?
I think it is a necessity these days for every team to have a psychologist, who can be with the team and travel everywhere where the team goes, and not just be there for the hourly sessions. They can be a great boost and have a proper understanding of each player, just like a captain and give the required counsel when needed. I am sure it’ll take every team to a better level.
Q What’s your message for the young and upcoming sportswomen, especially cricketers?
If a sport is your dream and you’ve to fight for it, go ahead. Your dreams and ambitions are yours and no one can take that away from you. For female cricketers, this is the best phase that women’s cricket has been in. Make an entry and shine.