Mithali Raj – “First time the thought of my retirement came into mind was when Rahul Dravid retired”

Former India women’s captain Mithali Raj has revealed that the first time the thought of retirement came to mind was way back in 2012, when Rahul Dravid hung up his boots. She recalled the Indian legend getting quite emotional and wondered whether she would feel the same emotion when her time came.

The 39-year-old recently announced her retirement from all forms of international cricket after a stellar 23-year career. She quit the game as the leading run-scorer in women’s international cricket, having amassed 10,868 runs across formats. She is also the leading run-getter in women’s ODI cricket with 7805 runs.

Reflecting on her retirement, Mithali told PTI in an interview:

“Honestly, the first time the thought of my retirement came into mind was when Rahul Dravid retired (in 2012). I saw his press conference, he was quite emotional and I thought then how it will be when I retire. Will I feel that emotion? And there were few other retirements that happened after that and I hoped that I wouldn’t be that emotional.”

She admitted knowing that the 2022 World Cup would be her last but added that she didn’t want to take an emotional decision to quit. Mithali explained:

“I was very clear in my mind that the World Cup was going to be my last. But I am not someone who takes decisions while I am going through a lot of emotions. Then I went to the domestic T20 event and realised that I did not have the same passion and thought it was my time (to retire).”

Thank you for all your love & support over the years!I look forward to my 2nd innings with your blessing and support.

She continued:

“I am a goal oriented person. The World Cup was my goal. After that I did not not see myself for the next four years so I thought this is the right time to retire. Sometimes you feel the impact of things after a while. So it still hasn’t sunk in.”

Asked what according to her has been her biggest legacy, the former India captain responded that she normalized girls playing cricket on the street and enrolling in academies. Mithali elaborated:

“I have been asked about my legacy a lot but never came up with a good answer. I think I probably would have normalized girls playing cricket on the street and enrolling into academies. It was not very common when I started playing. They used to say ‘we don’t take girls in our academies, you take them elsewhere’.

The pleased legend added:

“Now, there is no academy which can call itself an all exclusive boys academy which doesn’t allow girls to play. That gives me a lot of satisfaction. The academy I went to, which I was told was a boys academy, the same place enrols so many girls.”

Mithali started her international career as a 16-year-old and grabbed the limelight when she scored an unbeaten 114 on ODI debut against Ireland. She went on to establish herself as a mainstay in the Indian women’s batting line-up for the next two decades.

“We were in obscurity, but I still had so much fun” – Mithali Raj on pre-BCCI era

Having made her debut in 1999, Mithali has witnessed a 360-degree transformation in Indian women’s cricket – from journeys on unreserved trains to traveling around the world in business class. Asked to share her experiences of the pre and post-BCCI era, a philosophical Mithali said:

“Both had its own charm. I also had a lot of fun in the pre-BCCI era. It had a very different feel to it though resources were hardly there but there were other aspects of the sport we really enjoyed. We were in obscurity, nobody knew about us but I still had so much fun in that period.”

On the impact of BCCI on the women’s game, she asserted:

“When the BCCI took women’s cricket under its wings, professionalism came into the game. The BCCI brought stability, security, and growth into our game.”

“The most successful woman batter in the history of Indian cricket.”Celebrating @M_Raj03‘s records, achievements and contribution to the sport ⬇️

Mithali’s last international game for India was the 2022 World Cup match against South Africa in Christchurch. Leading the team, she scored 68 in 84 balls. However, India lost the match by three wickets and were knocked out of the tournament.

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