Mithali Raj, the India Women one-day international captain, said that playing in the 2017 ICC Women's World Cup final has given her the urge to lift the trophy at least once in her career.
India fell heartbreakingly short of winning their maiden World Cup title in 2017, when they lost to England by just nine runs in the final at Lord's. The experience of having come so close has only increased Raj's longing for the title.
"Well, it is something every cricketer wishes for," Raj, who is currently captaining Velocity in the Women's T20 challenge in India, told Cricbuzz. "So I am no different. And having been very close [to winning one], I know how it feels. If we were not close, I probably wouldn't even have had that urge. Sometimes, you know, when you've been very close, you realise what it is and you become desperate to cross that final step."
When I started, for me it was only important to play one international series to make my dad happy
Raj, however, remained non-committal when asked if she was eyeing the 2021 edition of the tournament, which is scheduled to be held in New Zealand. "I will not say I am looking at it. It's 2019 and it's close to another two years," she said. "You never know what happens. I take one series at a time, and I have always been that way. I have never really planned or seen further than 2-3 series."
Raj, who made her India debut in June 1999, will soon complete 20 years at the international level. The 36-year-old has featured in 302 international games and accumulated 9747 runs, including eight centuries and 73 half-centuries.
"When I started, for me it was only important to play one international series to make my dad happy. That is what I saw for myself. I didn't see myself playing for 20 years," she said.
"I am a very regimental and habitual person. Cricket has been more of a habit thing. One thing I made a pact is that as long as I am playing, I will play at my best, and the day I feel I don't think I am giving it [my] all, then I will walk out. I am still committed to working hard, and I continue to do that."
Raj is now set to lead her side, Velocity, against Harmanpreet Kaur's Supernovas in the final of the women's T20 challenge on Saturday, 11 May. Raj believed that a league such as this would help develop Indian talent, bridging the quality gap between international and domestic cricket.
"I knew this day would come sooner or later, because after how women's cricket took off [after the] 2017 World Cup, it was just a matter of time to get things rolling on this path," she said.
"It was important to get this league in a year or two, if you're going to build. India A - in women's cricket, we don't have too many tours where the A teams have the opportunity to get such exposure - the bridge between the domestic and international [level] is huge. So this league will help in that perspective. And, for anything to kick off, we have to start small to see how it works."
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