Mithali Raj recently became only the second woman cricketer after Charlotte Edwards to reach the incredible milestone of 10000 international runs during her innings of 36 in the third ODI against South Africa in Lucknow. It has been an incredible journey for the Indian captain, who made her debut for the country against Ireland in an ODI in 1999.
Raj has witnessed many highs in her illustrious career but there have also been periods of trial and tribulations.
She had to endure many injuries and played with pain for the most of her international career. In an exclusive to CricketNext, Raj talks about her cricketing journey and the challenges faced by women cricketers like her before the BCCI fully recognized women’s cricket in 2006. She stated that the lack of proper training facilities were a major reason for her frequent injuries in the initial half of her career.
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“There were a couple of injury scares and I thought of retiring. I was suffering from pain physically. Before BCCI accepted women’s cricket in 2006, we did not have the facilities like we have today in that National Cricket Academy (NCA) where you have the physios and trainers understand your injuries to put you through rehab. There were a couple of times when I was actually contemplating retirement."
The Indian captain added that she played the 2005 World Cup in South Africa with pain in a ligament tear as there was no other option. Raj still ended as the highest run-getter for India in the tournament with an aggregate of 199 runs in 7 innings which included two fifties. She further said that the world class facilities now provided by the BCCI have made a monumental difference to the fitness of women cricketers in the country.
“I played the 2005 World Cup with a ligament tear. I keep telling people that Smriti (Mandhana) had a ligament tear and was still able to compete in the 2017 World Cup because she was in the NCA for a good seven-eight months. Whereas, if any other player was in that position before the BCCI merger (with women’s cricket) happened, she would not have even played the 2017 World Cup. That is a huge difference for any player. The players are now looked after by the BCCI. When you go to the NCA, you are looked after well. That is something I had to face. With the support from my coaches and parents, I was able to get through that phase and am still continuing to play the sport."
Raj’s longevity, despite all the challenges and injuries, has been one of the biggest highlights of her 22-year career. She admitted she did not see herself make it this far and was grateful to the facilities at the NCA and her support team for taking care of her in recent years.
“Honestly, I did not see myself playing for so long. Because the injuries are not just the physical injuries that you endure. Every day, day in and day out, you are emotionally drained. Each time it gives you so much pain, and you know you have matches to play. And you know you are playing with so much pain. The regular trips to NCA and the support system I had really helped in recent times."
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