Personal likes or dislikes don’t matter when one is playing for the country, India’s Test and ODI captain Mithali Raj said on Sunday, insisting that she and head coach Ramesh Powar have “moved on” from a bitter past to take the team forward.
Mithali and Co. are currently quarantining in Mumbai ahead of the UK tour, which is expected to provide a big push to the team’s preparations for the ODI Word Cup in New Zealand early next year.
The full-fledged series comprising India’s first Test in seven years will also be Powar’s first assignment as head coach. The former India spinner returned to the role after being sacked following India’s semifinal defeat in the 2018 World T20.
Mithali was controversially dropped from that game and relations between the two went south with both accusing each other of unprofessional conduct.
Asked if their past will come in the way of their present and future, Mithali told PTI, “…we can’t be living in the past.”
“I’ve played for so many years, I don’t have an ego or I don’t give attention to my personal likes and dislikes. I’ve never done that.”
“And 21 years has been a long time for me to sort of, you know, go through many challenges. When it comes to playing for India, it’s like serving your country, so personal issues, I don’t really give any weightage (to those),” she said.
The 38-year-old is a torchbearer of women’s cricket for more than two decades and doesn’t like to carry baggages.
“You need to think about the bigger picture. That’s how I am. There are so many things that have happened in the past, but I don’t carry that baggage into my present or in the future.”
In quarantine, the team has had multiple zoom calls discussing plans for the upcoming tour. Mithali said the World Cup is the primary goal at the moment and everyone is aligned with that.
“He is the coach, and he has his set of plans, it’s important that both of us are aligned on the same page to take the team forward. Because even his goal is the same: that the team does well in the World Cup. It’s everybody’s goal in the team,” she said.
“We can’t be bitter and carry the bitterness. I’ve never been a confrontational person, nor am I someone who carries the past into present. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have survived for so long in a sport, which clearly needs re-inventions and revisions all the time,” she asserted.
“It’s important that we are on the same page and take the team along, because we are at a very crucial phase of our preparation for the World Cup.”
So the ice is already broken?
“Yeah, we have meetings, discussions regularly so clearly we have moved on,” said the leading run-getter in ODI cricket.
India take on England in a one off Test from June 16 in Bristol. A day-night Test against Australia in September has also been announced. With red ball cricket not being part of the domestic set up since 2018 and limited preparation time before the game, India face a big challenge.
However, Mithali, who herself has competed in only 10 Tests over 21 years, said the team will play to win.
“Looking at the itinerary we do have a few days before the Test. And I’m sure the girls also would have trained or prepared themselves accordingly at home before coming into quarantine.
“A lot of them have probably been preparing themselves mentally. But it is very important to have some groundwork going. That happens only when we all come out of the quarantine in UK…
“But I think sometimes it’s good to not get into game with the baggage of expectations, as in like most of them are making their debut and some of us are playing after a long gap.”
England and Australia are the only two teams that play Test cricket regularly and India are trying to do the same now. Mithali said the BCCI is doing the best it can to help the team’s preparation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is great that BCCI is trying to organise Test matches in a bilateral series, because I believe that every player around the world would want to play more games. And it’s every player’s dream to don the whites at some point, because it’s the oldest format of the sport.
“We also have continuity. We play another Test in Australia, and it is going to be a historical one for the Indian team because it will be the first time that you’re playing a day-night Test, that too at the WACA (Perth). I am sure we will get enough practice with the pink ball before that,” she said.
Personally, she has mixed feelings ahead of the twin Test challenge.
“I’m not trying to play the Test in my mind, but yes I’m quite excited for it in fact, to lead the team in the longer format. It’s a mixed feeling. I’m excited and bit of nerves are also there.
“Even though I have played for so many years, but Test is a format that I’ve not played regularly,” she said.
“So I’m excited because I’m getting to play a couple of Test matches this season, especially the Day-Night game which I never thought in my career, at least, I would get to play that,” added Mithali, who is expected to retire from the game after the World Cup.