Mithali Raj reflects on India's ouster and road ahead
Mithali Raj © Getty Images
India's World Cup 2022 campaign came to a halt on Sunday (March 27) as they lost a last ball thriller to South Africa. The game had plenty of ebbs and flows as it went right down the wire that eventually saw Mithali Raj led side go down by three wickets. The runners up from the previous edition lost four of their seven matches in the tournament - having suffered defeats against New Zealand, England, Australia and South Africa.
While addressing the journalists during the post match press conference, India skipper Mithali Raj mentioned that her side failed to seize the defining moments in the match and that's what ultimately cost them the game.
"Well, we could have added more runs in the death overs when we batted. Shabnim Ismail bowled well at the end and didn't let us score freely. We could have got many more runs with wickets in hand," said Raj.
"The most important couple of overs (during India's bowling) which I felt was when Tryon came in. The asking rate was around nine and she got it back to seven. I think that that was the moment which tilted the match in their favor."
India, who were deemed as one of the favourites to make it to the semifinals. didn't play well during the larger part of the tournament. Raj was dejected at their exit from the group stage of the ongoing tournament and was at a loss for words.
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"Honestly, right now I don't have any emotions. I'm just trying to get the hang of how the match has gone through. And preparing myself to answer your questions. Probably it will hit me may be tomorrow, because at some point we'll have to deal with the disappointment, it's a process - it will take time," said the 39-year old veteran.
India's loss to the Proteas has not only ended their World Cup campaign but it has most likely ended the illustrious careers of two Indian stalwarts who have been serving Indian cricket for the last two decades.
Raj and Jhulan Goswami have done exceedingly well for India over the years. And hence the loss to Sune Luus' side has brought an anti-climax to their playing careers. However, Raj remained tight-lipped on her retirement and didn't give a clarity on the same.
"I am in no position to comment on that right now, considering the sort of game that we just played. And as I said, the emotions are still there. So it needs to settle down before I could sort of have a clarity on that and give an answer," Raj said.
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Mignon du Preez, who was adjudged the Player of the Match for her match-winning half-century heaped praise on the two Indian legends and acknowledged their contribution for the sport.
"Yeah, I'm quite sad for them because they've both had splendid careers. I feel like they deserved to finish on a high and it's not the nicest thing if you don't make it through to the semi-finals. But I think both of them have been great role models for the women's game and they can walk away with their heads held high and knowing that they made a difference in women's cricket. I just want to wish them all the best for their future endeavors. They've definitely put women’s cricket on the world map," said du Preez.
With Raj and Jhulan's era drawing to a close, India need to look ahead and build a squad for the future. The incumbent ODI skipper feels that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the current team management among others need to take the call in the forthcoming days.
"I think it's important that you don't take any step right now. You allow the team to process what has happened and maybe with time the management, the board, the selectors will look into it. But right now, I think as players we need some time to sort of process that the campaign has ended for the Indian team in the World Cup," Raj added.
Speaking in regards to what the future holds for the side, Raj expressed her optimism. She said that the team has plenty of exciting young talent that can take the team to glory in the coming days.
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"I think India's future definitely is very bright. Looking at Richa, Yastika and we have of course, Sneha Rana - she made a comeback, we also have Meghana and others. All these girls will definitely play good standard of cricket in the coming years. They will get the exposure of playing different leagues and playing regularly with the best of the best in the world. I'm sure the team will shape up well for the future tournaments," Raj said while talking about the younger players in the side.
"There'll be fresh faces in, there will be some experienced players in - so I think every team has to go through this process of rebuilding a team after the World Cup especially after the One Day World Cup, so that they prepare for the coming World Cups in another four years. And I guess we are no different, probably the Indian team also will probably go through the same transformation."