Indian women’s ODI captain Mithali Raj on Saturday indicated that the 2022 50-over World Cup in New Zealand will be her “swansong” after 23 illustrious years in international cricket. The 38-year-old Mithali, arguably, the finest woman cricketer that India has ever produced, also said that she is seriously looking for some good seam bowling options for the lively New Zealand tracks that will be on offer next year.

“It’s been 21 years of international cricket and I know 2022 is my swansong, The World Cup,” Mithali said during the virtual launch of the book ‘1971: The Beginning of India’s Cricketing Greatness’, published by Harper Collins and co-authored by Boria Majumdar and Gautam Bhattacharya. “The last year is equal to the 20 years of my international cricket,” she added. Mithali, the only women batter with 7000 plus ODI runs, also spoke about how she had to keep herself motivated during the COVID-19 times which also pushed the global event by one year.

“I know we are in difficult times but it takes a lot out of me to keep working on my fitness. I am not getting any younger, in fact I am getting older and I know the importance of fitness,” Mithali said. “The importance of being in a very good emotional and mental set-up, knowing that there will be very few tours before the World Cup.”

Indian women are set to play four bilateral series — away tours in England, Australia and New Zealand and a home series against West Indies sandwiched in between. “Every tour (from now on) is important for me as a batter as to how I am going to get the team to regroup and build a team for the World Cup,” she said.

“Yeah, I am very optimistic looking at the girls and in the manner they have been working with whatever facilities they have in these times and focus and enthusiasm that a series is coming up.” She admitted that fast bowling is one area that the team needs to improve upon and build a pool looking at the future as Jhulan Goswami also hits the business end of her career.

“We definitely need to look at a few players and prepare them for New Zealand, so yeah.” Mithali also got some words of advice from the legendary Sunil Gavaskar, who was a co-panellist during the discussion. Gavaskar feels that Mithali and her bunch could take a leaf out of Virat Kohli’s playbook of looking at opponent’s eyes and giving it back without getting intimidated.

“I was with my wife at Lord’s watching the 2017 Women ODI World Cup final. What I saw was that English girls came hard at your lower order and intimidated them with their attitude,” Gavaskar said. “I would want the girls to glare back at the opposition instead of looking down. I feel body language is a very important aspect. Look at Virat Kohli, he stares at opposition and the rest of the team does that.”