Mithali Raj knows she will never be able to lay her hands on a World Cup trophy. It was a trophy that seemed within her grasp until the lower-order Indian batting imploded in a spectacular fashion against England in the final at Lord’s on Sunday (July 23). The 34-year-old did well to keep her emotions in check at the post-match ceremony but admits she broke down during the team meeting after the final. The day after the heartbreaking loss, the Indian captain shares the disappointments and joys of a memorable World Cup campaign with TOI. Excerpts..
Have you recovered from the heartbreaking loss?
Raj: No, it’s not even 24 hours. The cup was ours for the taking but we couldn’t complete the final step. It will take a while for me to make peace with it. Maybe it was not written in our destiny.
How did you manage to lose from a winning position?
Raj: If I knew the answer to that, I would be probably speaking to you in a much better frame of mind. After the loss of two early wickets, we were cruising with two partnerships that Punam (Raut) built with Harman (Harmanpreet Kaur) and Veda (Krishnamurthy). But then we lost our way. I had my hopes till Shikha (Pandey) got run out. I think it was the inexperience of playing on such a big stage on such a big occasion. Cricket experts always talk about keeping things simple. But what I have figured out in my long career is that the hardest thing to do in a crisis is to keep things simple. We made mistakes but I won’t blame anyone.
So you feel a sports psychologist or a mental conditioning coach will help..
Raj: Certainly. Things are better for women’s cricket in terms of facilities since BCCI took us under their wing in 2007. We had sports psychologists taking classes for us during camps. But who can be with the team throughout. I am sure it’s something that can be looked at and it would be of immense help to the girls.
Your run-out was quite bizarre. What happened?
Raj: I saw some weird stuff written about my run-out on social media. Actually, what happened was my spike got stuck in the pitch. Punam called me for a run and I responded. Before I reached half way, this thing (spike getting stuck) happened and I don’t think the TV cameras captured it. I couldn’t push myself hard and couldn’t even make an effort to dive. I was helpless. I was gutted.
You had said before leaving for England that winning the tournament would be like a ‘revolution’. Do you think you have managed to change people’s perception?
Raj: That’s what I am most happy about. People have seen the quality of the games and started appreciating us. Women’s cricket is now being seen in a different height. It’s not just cricket lovers but even random people are acknowledging us now. Broadcast of women’s matches has made a huge difference. People are talking about us on social media. I have been playing for over 20 years but I have never experienced such a big following.