It was a mixed day for India captain and record breaker Mithali Raj. On one hand, she became the highest run-getter in ODI cricket and the first to break the 6000-run barrier. On the other, India lost the match to Australia by eight wickets. The team will now have to battle it out in their last league game against New Zealand on Saturday if they want to advance to the semis.
And the veteran Raj is clear about what India needs to do. If they are to be world champions, the team needs to shrug off the string of losses and bounce back strong, she said.
“At this level, if you are aiming for the World Cup, because the tournament is so long there will be points where the team may lose a couple of games. If you want to win, you really have to have the players who are able to make those comebacks because every other team is trying to do the same thing and play good cricket. You can’t just give up because you lose one game,” Raj said after the loss to Australia.
The captain was also very frank in her assessment of just where India were falling short.
“India has always had the problem that when faced with the crunch matches, the team does not necessarily step up. If it is a very crucial game in the T20s, the World Cup, or even one that just dictates a series win, we tend to fall down in that match. So that is something that Indian players in general really need to work on. The girls are so talented, but it’s just a matter of how well they pull themselves up after a defeat. That’s what makes world champions,” she said.
Raj also spoke about her milestone innings and addressed the criticism about her slow start with a straight bat. However, she rued the lack of support from other batters that some of the other top players enjoy.
“Me being in the middle gives the other batters a lot of confidence. It keeps the dressing room confident too. I really have enjoyed my long career, but probably because of the responsibility, perhaps I haven’t been able to enhance my own batting as much as I would want to. I haven’t had that freedom to play my shots and not had to think about what happens if you get out. There are times when you want to take calculated risks, but I can’t really push it because if I lose my wicket it’s a big problem for the team,” Raj said.
If India lose Saturday’s match, it will in all likelihood be Raj’s last World Cup game. The onus will be on the team as much as on the record-breaking batter to ensure that she lives to fight another day in the World Cup.