Mithali Raj has said she doesn't heed criticism around her strike rate and instead focuses on shouldering the responsibility bestowed by the team management in terms of playing the anchor role in the Indian ODI side.
"I do read the criticism about my strike rate but as I've said earlier also, I don't seek validation from people," Raj, the India Test and ODI captain, said after sealing a 220-run chase and her side's thrilling four-wicket win on Saturday in Worcester with an unbeaten 75. "I have played for a long time, and I know that I have a certain responsibility in the team. I don't look to please people, I'm here to play the role that's assigned to me accordingly, by the team management.
"When you're chasing a target, you pick your bowlers, you pick the length, and you pick the areas. And because I am in good flow, I know I need to make the best use of me in the middle. In a way the batting unit revolves around me - that's the job that's been given to me by the coach.
"I look to not get bogged down because somewhere I do know that the top order is already in the dugout and it was important for me to understand the situation how I can manoeuvre and try to get the match as close as possible with the batters who are yet to come and the batters that I had in the middle. And I guess I need to give credit also to Sneh Rana because that partnership was very, very crucial. She kept her calm, which is very important in such situations."
Picking up her third straight fifty in the ODI leg of the multi-format series, Raj steered India to victory in the final over of the chase after putting on two fifty stands. The second of those was with No. 7 Sneh Rana, whose vital 22-ball 24 earned her praise from Raj.
"For me batting has always been a role-play in the team," Raj said. "The sort of role that is assigned to me over the years is of taking the responsibility of the batting unit and play throughout. And that's something I've always done.
"Today also was one of those days where I could plan my innings. Chasing gives me a better picture of building an innings along with the other batters in the middle and I am able to control the game. I think that really worked for me. And having young girls in the side it helps to guide them when you're in the middle to also sort of help them understand the situation and how to play in these conditions. It works well that way."
En route to her half-century, Raj surpassed former England captain Charlotte Edwards as the highest run-scorer in women's international cricket. She went past Edwards' tally of 10,273 with a four off Natalie Sciver in the 24th over of the chase.
"I think the way things have gone, it wasn't an easy journey," Raj said, reflecting on her storied 22-year-long international career. "It had its trials and challenges. I've always believed that these trials always have a purpose, and there were times when I wanted to give up for various reasons but something kept me going and here I am, 22 years of international cricket but the hunger to score runs for India has never dried up.
"[…] I know I have a few months in the run-up to the World Cup, and there's certain areas, certain dimensions to the game that I would like to add to my batting. I look forward to working on those areas."
Raj, who retired from T20Is in 2019, had before the England tour said the 2022 ODI World Cup would be her swansong. With only tours of Australia and New Zealand so far scheduled before next year's world tournament, the ODI assignment in England which concluded on Saturday may have been her last one in the country.
"Obviously, before the World Cup we don't have an England tour but I have always enjoyed playing in England against England, one of the quality teams on the world stage," Raj, who made her international debut in England in 1999, said. "They say English conditions are always difficult, but the bulk of my runs I've scored on this soil. I'm just grateful that each time I come here...
"There have been times when I've toured England from a bad form and I have scored heavily coming to England. So, I am happy the way I started in 1999, and today it's come a full circle. I just look forward positively for the tours I am yet to play that I continue this form into those series as well."