India ODI captain Mithali Raj confirmed that the 2021 ICC Women's World Cup will be her last global tournament and that she hopes to finish up with a trophy. While a World Cup win would be a phenomenal personal achievement for the most prolific run-scorer in women's ODIs, Raj is keener on winning the cup as it could further boost the rate at which young girls are taking up the game in India.
"The 2021 event will obviously be my last World Cup, and I hope to see India lift the trophy," Raj told Aaj Tak. Apart from being a great achievement for the team, World Cup glory will further advance the cause of women's cricket in India and we saw that the 2017 World Cup had a positive effect as well," Raj said.
Raj, who had retired from the shortest format of the game last year, believes that winning a fifty-overs World Cup is the pinnacle in the career of most cricketers and hoped that India, who have been excellent in women's ICC tournaments of late, would go one step further to what they did in 2017 when they lost to England Women in the final at Lord's.
"Winning any ICC event, be it in ODIs or T20I, will be a massive inspiration to the next generation of girls, but the 2021 World Cup, being in the fifty-over format, is considered the pinnacle by any cricketer. And I really hope India can go one better than they performed in the last edition."
"India has been doing very well at ICC tournaments in the last three or four years, whether you talk about the (ODI) World Cup or the recently-concluded T20 World Cup," she added.
Raj reflected on how the times have changed since her debut. With central contracts and more exposure, young women cricketers coming through the system are committed professionals who earn from the game.
"There's a big difference in exposure for women's cricket since my early days as an international player because when I made my debut as a 16-year-old I learnt a lot of lessons on tour, but someone like Shafali Verma comes in fully prepared, having been exposed to tournaments like the Challenger Trophy with plenty of experience in the domestic setup," Raj said, adding that central contracts have played a role in keeping the women in the game.
"There were no contracts for women's players earlier, but we now hold central contracts and BCCI looks after the players. What this does is it ensures that players stay committed to the game in hunt of a different profession because cricket has become a steady source of income."