A decades-long career in Indian cricket but former Indian skipper Mithali Raj says she has no regrets about retiring just a year before the start of the historic Women's Premier League.
Part of the league now as Gujarat Giants mentor, the 40-year-old can see the effect the league is already having on India's domestic cricketers, and how in the long run it till benefit India's bench strength.
'If somebody from domestic cricket makes a debut, they take two years to get used to the international standards, and then start to perform. Now, with the WPL, that two year gap will be eliminated because the players are already exposed to that pressure, the sort of tactics that you want your players to execute,' Mithali told The Quint.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Mithali, we've waited many, many years for the WPL and now that it's here and we're in the business end of it - do you feel like it's everything we wished for it to be, needed it to be?
Looking at how the tournament has progressed for all the teams, the matches have been close, competitive and there's been some very good feedback.
Also the standard of cricket that each and every team has been playing in this tournament is amazing. A lot of viewers have been very, very positive about it. So I think considering how even the local talent, the domestic talent from different teams have been standing up - it's nice to see everything coming together.
This is one of the big focus points of this WPL isn’t it. How this tournament could see the evolution of Indian domestic players and make them more prepared for international cricket when their time comes. For the Indian team, it means a much stronger bench strength?
Yes, most definitely. I think this set-up is probably a step higher than the domestic standard and a step lower than international cricket. It’s that place in between which was so necessary, specially in our country. We don't have the structure from the under-16 and under-19 level. So things are falling in place and this tournament bridge the gap between the domestic and international, which for years we could not find.
If somebody from domestic cricket would make a debut, they would take two years, at least in the women's circuit, to get used to that international standard, and then start to perform. So now those two years have been eliminated because here is where you gain that experience and you pick players who are already exposed to that pressure, the sort of tactics that you want your players to execute. The execution level also will be at a much better position when they get into the internationals or in the national side.
You retired just last year. Some would say you probably had one season at least of the WPL in you. Is that a thought you entertained?
Yes, there have been many people who said I should have played the first season but when I took retirement, when I made up my mind after the World Cup, there was still a year to go for the WPL. We didn't know how things would happen or when things would happen.
So, you know, there was a lot of time till the WPL. I felt that when you have such a long career, there is a sense of like ‘I’ve given everything’. So that sort of emotion was already there. So of thought that I should have played in the WPL never occurred to me.
When you walked out of the WPL auction, which team did you think would be the most competitive against Gujarat Giants.
I would say, and Delhi Capitals. And when I walked away from the auction, I also thought RCB because they have all the (international) captains there so clearly you’d think that, you know, they have a lot of minds in the team.