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“Common To See Girls Playing Cricket On Streets”: Women’s Cricket Legend Mithali Raj On Her Legacy To NDTV

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Legendary Indian cricketer Mithali Raj announced her retirement from all forms of international cricket on June 8. After over two decades in the international arena, ¬†Mithali retired as the leading run-getter in women’s ODIs. She represented India in 232 matches, scoring 7805 runs at an average of 50.68. She had earlier announced her retirement from T20 internationals. Mithali made her international debut in June 1999, in an ODI against Ireland. She had captained India to two ICC Women’s World Cup finals, the latest being in 2017 when the Indian women lost a closely fought final to England at a jam packed Lord’s Cricket Stadium.

The legendary batter and captain spoke to NDTV about a range of topics including what she thought was her legacy in the sport.

“I satisfied from where I started to where I am leaving the sport. Yesterday someone asked me what would be your legacy. I have never had the right answer for it. But I can say that when I started, the way I was introduced to the sport was in an exclusive boys camp. Where I was the only girl. And then I had to switch camps because they didn’t take girls.

“The same camp today takes 60 to 80 girls today, who enroll every year. It was not common for a girl carrying a kit bag and walking down the street back in those days but in today’s times it is common and people have accepted that. It is now common to see girls playing cricket on streets. Every academy now takes girls and happy to train them. So, I am happy to leave the sport in a good space¬†and I am positive that it will only grow from here into a brighter space,” a very proud Mithali told NDTV during the exclusive interview.

Mithali and her team’s journey to the 2017 ICC Women’s World Cup final created a huge euphoria among cricket fans in India and the performances in that tournament brought women’s cricket under the spotlight like never before. Mithali thinks that tournament proved to be a turning point not just for woemn’s cricket in India but throughout the world.

“A World Cup trophy in any format whether it is T20 or ODI, That is something which all Indian cricketers are working towards. One ICC trophy can do wonders to the sport. It already had despite we being just a step below, losing by few runs in 2017 World Cup. You have seen the sort of impact that it created among the people in India . Especially for young girls to dream to see themselves on the screen, they can also have the dream of playing for India. That would definitely change (with a World Cup win),” Mithali said.

“It definitely was one of the most significant curves for women’s cricket, not just in India but all over the world. The events that have followed also pushed the entire thing forward,” Mithali added

Talking about the experience of playing in front of a packed house on the hallowed turf of Lord’s in 2017, Mithali said it was a feeling she always wanted to experience.

“I told the girls that it was a huge opportunity for us to make the game popular in India. I was walking in to Lord’s which was packed. I had played at Lord’s before but it was never this packed. I walked in with the stands full and dreams beating. I always wanted to experience the feeling of playing in front of a packed house,” Mithali said.

The veteran cricketer also pushed for the women’s IPL and said that it could have the same impact on women’s cricket in India that IPL has had on the men’s team.

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“The start of women’s IPL for sure can really help build a strong pool of players. It might take a few more years. May be in two three years we will see a lot many potential players. The way IPL has helped the growth of the men’s team, similarly women’s IPL can help women’s cricket,” she said.

Asked to choose her favourite stat from the plethora of records she has, Mithali picked her 7000-plus runs record in ODIs.

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