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Sunday, Nov 17, 2019

‘I have moved on, not holding on to the past’: Mithali Raj | Exclusive

In an exclusive chat, Mithali explains her sudden decision to retire, her future in T20 cricket and who she feels is a better T20 captain between Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana.

cricket Updated: Sep 04, 2019 08:46 IST
Shalini Gupta
Shalini Gupta
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
File image of Mithali Raj
File image of Mithali Raj(Getty Images)
         

Mithali Raj’s decision to retire from Twenty20 Internationals on Tuesday means her swansong will likely be the 50-over World Cup in 2021 in New Zealand which the India ODI captain yearns to win.

The 36-year-old, who became the first Indian to reach 2,000 runs in T20Is, also captained India in their first ever T20I against England in Derby in 2006.

In an exclusive chat, Mithali explains her sudden decision to retire, her future in T20 cricket and who she feels is a better T20 captain between Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana.

ALSO READ: Mithali retirement: Pujara hails former skipper as ‘inspiration for girls’

Excerpts:

After a gap of three months, people were expecting to see you in action against South Africa in the T20 series along with the ODIs. Why this sudden decision to quit T20Is?

It is not sudden. I had told coach WV Raman and chairman of the selection committee back in January when we were playing a T20 series in New Zealand. I had told them that I no longer saw myself playing the shortest format and the 2020 T20 World Cup. I had also told them that the three-match T20 series at Guwahati against England would be my last appearance for India. I would have retired in New Zealand itself, but my father felt that I needed to play my last series in India.

Would you have not preferred to retire on the ground?

I am a very low profile person and comfortable (in) the way I have announced my retirement from T20 cricket. I enjoyed playing for India in the T20 format and it’s time that youngsters come to the fore and show their talent.

Do you think whatever happened between you and ex-coach Ramesh Powar during the last T20 World Cup in West Indies triggered an uncomfortable scenario for you in the T20 team?

Whatever happened was definitely in bad taste and uncalled for. For almost two months I had to go through a tough phase. It was very disturbing for me and my family. I am happy that I have moved on and not holding on to the past anymore. My focus is to prepare for 2021 World Cup.

You have played under Harmanpreet Kaur and also Smriti Mandhana in T20s. What is your message for them and who is better?

Smriti captained the T20 side for just one series. It won’t be correct to rate her for just one series. Both are capable enough to learn and grow. I wish them luck.

You have always preferred ODIs over T20s. Will you continue to play in the IPL-styled women’s T20 league next season?

The Indian T20 women’s league is yet to start. All other women’s T20 leagues are already running. I would love to be a part of the Indian T20 league whenever it gets rolling. It will be an Indian league after all. I enjoyed playing in the exhibition T20 matches that took place in Jaipur a few months ago.

You first played a T20 for India way back in 2006. How has T20 evolved since then? How have Indian women progressed as T20 cricketers?

T20 cricket for (both) men and women has evolved in a big way. It is a popular format now. T20 leagues like Kia Super League and Women’s Big Bash League have gained popularity. Indian cricketers have adapted to the game very well, especially in the last three years. In the coming months, they should be preparing well for the T20 World Cup under WV Raman and eyeing success against much better teams like Australia and England.