Mithali Raj keen to put behind ‘the most challenging phase’

The India captain is looking forward to score runs and be mentally stronger in 2019.

Mithali Raj hopes the new year goes well for the Indian team.   -  AP

It’s 2019, and India’s Mithali Raj is keen to put behind a controversy she says was “the most challenging phase.”

The batter is shifting her focus on the assignments ahead in the new year. “I don’t want the recent controversy to affect my preparations for the forthcoming ODI series in New Zealand,” says Mithali after a long training session at the place she loves to be when in the city — St. John’s Coaching Foundation — under the tutelage of her personal coach R. S. R. Murthy.

“Well, I have had a few new year resolutions which were intended to help me stay focussed and obviously looking forward to a very good year personally and for the team,” Mithali told Sportstar on Saturday. “Honestly, I have faced difficult times in the past, too. But, this time around, it was in the public domain. [It] hurt [a] lot of people in many ways at different levels. It was the most challenging phase for me, for sure,” she said.

‘Deeply disappointed’

“I was deeply disappointed at the negative portrayal of women’s cricket itself more than about myself being treated like that. Let me make it clear. It was not about my batting order which was never a concern, but about being part of the winning team. It was more about the behaviour. I don’t know whether it was deliberately floated that I was more concerned about the order. Remember, I batted in different slots in the ODIs over the years,” she explained.

“Sanity was the most crucial factor during that phase. One had to be patient and it was very difficult to be during those times,” the 36-year-old disclosed.

“It's about self-respect. Every one — whether she is a star or a newcomer — has some self-respect and that should be guarded. I am not a person to be honest according to my convenience. No one should be disrespected,” Mithali felt.

“What was disappointing was this kind of treatment coming from those who were cricketers. Things just panned off the field, too. I can understand about a non-cricketer’s perspective in such a scenario,” she said.

‘Stronger’

“Definitely, I am much stronger now. I know how to put across view now. Earlier, I kept to myself these things. But, when people don’t have empathy or compassion, you have to take a strong position,” she said.

Mithali Raj: “I still appeal to the young girls to take up the sport which is growing for sure in India.” Photo: V. V. Subrahmanyam

 

Did she expect captaincy again after all the controversy? “Honestly, I thought I would be dropped from T20 and sacked from captaincy. I never had any expectations that I would play... (pause),” Mithali said with a big laugh.

“Just remember, I never abused captaincy nor was I vindictive towards any player. I always look for decent, positive atmosphere. Yes, there are some players who have spoken against me in the past. Still, tomorrow if I am in a position to make a difference to them, I am more willing to help them out,” she explained.

‘Looking forward to score runs’

“Now, [I’m] looking forward to score runs. I make a very conscious effort that I am not a liability in terms of fitness. When I am running between the wickets my partner should be confident that I can run for her. There are no personal goals. So, [I] will take it series by series as I have always done. I want to be stronger mentally,” she said.

On women’s cricket, Mithali feels that any sport had its ups and downs and people cannot be judgemental taking this controversy. “I still appeal to the young girls to take up the sport which is growing for sure in India,” she concluded.