BENGALURU: When it comes to athletes who have shed stereotypes about women sportspesons in India, Mithali Raj is one of the names to appear on top of most lists. Not only has the cricketer become a household name in a sport dominated the world over by men, but the batswoman has also consistently broken the ‘tomboy’ image that is dumped on women in sports. Raj did just that, once again, in the city when she walked the ramp for a jewellery show.
“I have always loved wearing pretty clothes, like every girl, and since I pursued dancing in childhood, I always enjoyed decking up,” Raj told CE at the launch of Eleganza, a diamond collection brought by jewellery chain Joyalukkas with Anglo-Australian mining corporation Rio Tinto on Thursday.
The Hyderabad resident has no plans, however, of launching her own merchandise brand, or stepping into films. “I can’t act. There are no plans like that,” she says, going on to reveal that she enjoys every moment of the time spent in front of camera for magazine cover shoots. “I get to see another side of me during photoshoots, but being an athlete always comes first. That never fades in me,” she adds.
That the cricketer in her is always kicking becomes apparent as soon as the topic veers towards the ongoing ICC World Cup tournament. A visibly animated Raj points out that people’s expectations from the Men in Blue, in a huge country like India, is overwhelming, especially since cricket is a game that is followed religiously here.
“Even when the best of the players get on the stage, they will always feel the pressure coming from the expectations of people. But I’m sure the team has a good composition of players who can absorb the pressure,” she says, adding that this year’s World Cup will not be easy to win as each team has put up decent performances in the past few years. “Having said that, I’m looking forward to the World Cup, as an Indian and a cricketer. I will definitely root for our team,” she stresses.
Raj believes Women’s IPL will become a full-fledged league in three to four years. “Seeing this year’s response, I’m hoping the committee will add another team by next year. This year, at the women’s T20 challenge, we had three teams, which is like testing waters on how people will respond and turn out at the stadiums. The response has been great, except for the matches played in the afternoon,” she says, explaining that the popularity will increase if time slots are right. “Women’s IPL could be bigger if the matches are held in the evening, so that people can gather with their families,” she adds.
She also believes that this is the best time for girls in India to explore a future in cricket, since the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is showing a lot of interest. “With the recent exhibition IPL games, the contract system and the increase in the number of women’s cricket matches, women’s cricket is developing into a brand now. It will be a very fruitful choice if girls opt for this as a profession,” she says.