When ace cricketer and captain of the Indian women’s ODI team, Mithali Raj, took her first steps in cricket as a 10-year-old, little did she realise that one day she would go on to touch the pinnacle of her field. The cricketer, who recently completed 20 years in the cricketing field, looks back and says, playing for India was never really on the cards.
“I was too young to understand what I was getting into. It happened by chance. I used to tag along with my brother who played cricket at St John’s Academy. When I played with India in 1999, I thought it would be a one-off thing and then I would go do something else. It was step-by-step I guess,” says Mithali Raj who has gotten a much-needed long break now before she gets busy with her next ODI series against England in June.
But, her fans will be hard-pressed to find her in any of the popular spots in the city as she describes herself as a ‘complete homebody’ when she visits home. “I want to give more time to my parents and eat home-cooked food. I do crave ‘ghar ka khana’ when I’m travelling. I tell my friends I want home-cooked food even though they want to take me to hip restaurants,” quips Mithali who recently turned vegan and is of the opinion that going vegan doesn’t affect her stamina as much. “Since I am lactose intolerant and carbs are difficult to digest for me, I try to compensate with other nutrients and proteins.”
The 36-year-old also plans to focus on her fitness now. “You can’t just take an off from working out as the levels just drop. Before a series, the focus is on the skill, but off season it’s fitness,” adds Mithali.
An avid Netflixer, she is excited about catching up on series like The Crown season 3, and Luther and read books. Listening to music isn’t really her thing, but “as long as the song is catchy, it works for a time”. The cricketer also shared that a biopic on her life is very much in the works. “I have signed with Viacom, they have the rights to do a film on my life. It is still in scripting stage and they are finalising the actors. Anyone who tries to ape my batting skills would be good.”
Of course, the cricketer herself doesn’t fancy being on-screen and calls herself “camera-shy”. But, she is not averse to a selfie with Robert Downey Jr or Sandra Bullock if she gets to meet them.
Having quit Bharatanatyam for cricket, Mithali admits that had it not been for cricket, she would have become a classical dancer. “I did consider getting back to Bharatanatyam in 2009. But, over the years, with the body going through a lot, the injuries, niggles, sometimes it gets difficult to do dancing because it is intense as well. I can’t say it’s too late, you can start anytime.”
For now, she is looking forward to the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup which is going to be held as a standalone event for the first time. “I think it’s great that finally women’s cricket is coming out of the shadows of men’s cricket. I’m eager to see how it pans out as Australia as a country has promoted lot of women’s sports, especially team sports.”