Mithali shrugs off record-breaking feat

The Indian captain wasn’t overjoyed at becoming the highest run-getter in women’s ODIs as her team tumbled to a tame defeat against Australia.

Mithali Raj scored 69 off 114 balls against Australia in Bristol on Wednesday.   -  PTI

India’s Mithali Raj was not keen on giving undue attention to her new status as the highest run-getter in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) when she achieved the feat against Australia in the Women’s World Cup round-robin tie on Wednesday.

“I was terribly disappointed with the loss to Aussies in the crucial game. If we had won, maybe, there would have been some celebrations. But, at the end of the game, it was normal, routine stuff and the feeling of setting this record never really occurred to me,” the Indian captain told Sportstar.

“Well, somehow, there is nothing new to me about this record as I had held it earlier also for some time. Sure, coming in a World Cup it does have its own significance but again I always believed that individual performances don’t count if they don’t help the team’s cause,” says Mithali, who now has 6,028 runs from 183 ODIs at an average of 51.52 with five centuries.

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“May be, this milestone is perhaps the result of me being consistent over the years at the highest level. But certainly not the end in itself. I still love to keep improving with each match,” she said.

Mithali’s search for a cushion at the top of the order that could allow her to bat with more cavalier spirit is still elusive. Her half-century on Wednesday stabilised the Indian innings after it had lost early wickets, but her strike-rate was a lowly 61. As it turned out, India’s 226 was eclipsed with ease by the opposition.

‘Same old story’

“I thought in this World Cup I will just go out and enjoy, bat with more freedom. But, it is the same old story again for me. I still have to be conscious of the team’s needs, bat with lot of responsibility and burden too. For, like in the game against South Africa when there was a complete collapse after I got out, I don’t want to see too many overs left for the others to face in a game and that is why I had to be very cautious and selective in my strokeplay,” she said.

“May be, in a couple of years I will end up playing the way I wanted to. Initially, I took pride when the team used to look up to me and it continues to be the same till date. But in hindsight it has become a disadvantage,” she says. “This burden of carrying on being the mainstay also means that I can’t work on my game, explore other areas of batting. [I’m] definitely not able to try a window for a different role even now. Even now [I] always have to bat according to the team’s requirements,” Mithali said. “This also means curbing my instincts a lot,” she added.

“Soon after a couple of series after this World Cup, I will be mentoring and grooming young talent in the team once I [have] decided to leave [the sport] but certainly not before another year’s go at the highest level,” Mithali said. “And, that too if the selectors feel I am good enough to last that long,” she says with a big laugh. “This World Cup is a reminder of the new standards in women’s cricket. The evolution of the game is pretty evident; unlike in previous editions, there are no weak teams and almost every team has a centurion. Many teams are scoring consistently 270-plus,” Mithali said.

“Look at the number of leg-spinners in this World Cup. It is amazing and makes it even more challenging. I have not seen so many in one edition earlier. This is great news for women’s cricket,” she said.

Mithali thanked broadcaster Star Sports for the live-streaming of the World Cup, a step she feels would help encourage more girls to pick up the sport.

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