This will be my last World Cup, says Mithali Raj

Indian women’s cricket captain Mithali Raj says that for all practical reasons the next month's ODI World Cup in England will be her last appearance.

Mithali, who will be playing in her fifth World Cup next month, pointed out that what was impressive was the way the players have responded on the South African tracks.   -  V. Raju

Indian women’s cricket captain Mithali Raj says that for all practical reasons the next month's ODI World Cup in England will be her last appearance.

“I don’t think it is practical for me to even think of playing in another edition of World Cup after leading India in England. And, I don’t want to entertain huge expectations next month but hope to have a significant and special World Cup,” the 34-year-old Mithali says in an exclusive interview with Sportstar on Tuesday on return after winning the Quadrangular Series in South Africa.

For someone who has been an epitome of class and consistency for 18 years now—scoring a century on ODI debut against Ireland in June 1999 and coming up with a match-winning half-century in the last ODI against South Africa which helped her team win the Quadrangular Series in South Africa last week-end—Mithali says there were lots of positives on the recent South African tour.

“It was a wonderful team effort with the most pleasing part being the way the openers gave us the kind of starts we were looking for. And, that world record stand between Deepti Sharma and Poonam Raut (320 against Ireland) actually made them believe to be much better players in terms of confidence they got from that stunning effort,” she explained.

Mithali, who will be playing in her fifth World Cup next month, pointed out that what was impressive was the way the players have responded on the South African tracks given the fact that only she and Jhulan Goswami were the only two members of this Indian team who played last time in South Africa (2005 World Cup).

“Almost the entire team adapted well to the playing conditions which again will be totally different from what will be in England for the World Cup. But a perfect tour in terms of making a critical assessment ahead of such an important event,” remarked Mithali who has an imposing record of 5781 runs from 177 ODIs with five centuries and 46 half-centuries.

“Definitely, it is a wonderful experience as a captain to witness two world records on this tour – Jhulan becoming the highest wicket-taker in women’s cricket in ODIs and the openers setting that world record. Though Jhulan’s record was on the cards, no one expected the openers to bat their to a world record which actually gave them the self-belief that they are much better cricketers,” the Indian captain explained.

“Personally, I still believe that I have to stay in the middle and play long to give the kind of confidence to the other members of the team. But, I am still enjoying my game. Like wine getting better, even I am getting better as I get older,” says a smiling Mithali.

Any concerns when looking at the World Cup challenge?

“We have had a preparatory camp in Mumbai from June 5 and the focus will be on improving all aspects of the game but the emphasis will be on mental toughness," Mithali remarked.

“Qualifiers and the Quadrangular Series are different as the World Cup is a bigger platform and the challenge will be much bigger against very strong teams.I still believe the girls sometimes give up in high pressure situations. They need to stand up in crunch situations and for that you need to be mentally tough,” India’s best-ever women’s cricketer concluded.

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