Women’s World Cup 2022 is my swansong, says Mithali Raj

Mithali Raj in action. © BCCI

Mithali Raj, India’s ODI captain, indicated that the Women’s World Cup in 2022 in New Zealand could be her last as an international cricketer. Raj made her international debut in 1999 against Ireland in an ODI and retired from T20Is in September 2019.

“It’s been 21 years of international cricket and I know 2022 is my swansong, the World Cup,” Raj said during the virtual book launch of ‘1971: The Beginning of India’s Cricketing Greatness’ on Saturday (April 24). “The last year is equal to the 20 years of my international cricket.”

Raj, who led India in the home series against South Africa last month, had last played international cricket in 2019, before COVID-19 struck. She then led Velocity in the Women’s T20 Challenge last year.

“I know we are in difficult times but it takes a lot out of me to keep working on my fitness. I am not getting any younger,” said the 38-year-old, who became the first woman to score over 7000 ODI runs last month.

“In fact I am getting older and I know the importance of fitness, the importance of being in a very good emotional and mental set-up, knowing that there will be very few tours before the World Cup.”

The Indian players have a relatively busy calendar in 2021. They will be seen in action in the three-team Women’s T20 Challenge in May, followed by tours to England and Australia. They then will play West Indies, who will tour India, before the hosts fly Down Under to play New Zealand ahead of the Women’s World Cup next year.

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“Every tour (from now on) is important for me as a batter as to how I am going to get the team to regroup and build a team for the World Cup,” said Raj, who’s eyeing a World Cup win, having come close twice – in 2005 and in 2017.

“I am very optimistic looking at the girls and in the manner they have been working with whatever facilities they have in these times and focus and enthusiasm that a series is coming up.”

India would be looking to bolster their seam-bowling attack, given they are on the road in the coming year. Conditions in England, Australia and New Zealand generally assist seam and the Women’s  T20 World Cup runners-up would be wanting to tighten that area. Against South Africa, India had to rely on the experience of Jhulan Goswami, who had the company of Mansi Joshi and the newbie Monica Patel. India had surprisingly benched the likes of Shikha Pandey and Ekta Bisht, which raised a few eyebrows.

“We definitely need to look at a few players and prepare them for New Zealand,” concluded Raj.