Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber
Just over 12 years ago, India played in the semi-final of the Women's World Cup against New Zealand in Potchefstroom. Mithali Raj came in at 38 for 2 and lifted her team to 204 for 6. She made 91* and India eventually won.
A lot has changed since then. India are no longer the emerging superpower, they are the greatest power the game has seen. T20 has changed cricket's priorities. Women's cricket is no longer some amateur backwater; it's on the verge of a professional revolution.
But for Raj, the world has not changed so much. She is still the spine, heart and several other limbs of the Indian batting line-up. She still has to play more conservatively than she would like because ultimately she doesn't trust her team-mates yet. She calls it her burden.
After the loss to Australia earlier in this tournament, Raj said: "Playing for a stronger side with more players to stand up and win games it gives you the freedom to play your shots and you don't have to think about what happens if you get out. There are times when you want to take calculated risks, but 'What if you get out?' has always been in the back of my mind through my career. India has always had that problem. Faced with crunch matches, the team doesn't step up."
In that game, Punam Raut scored a hundred, her second in ODIs, and the 21st overall by an Indian woman. But of those 21 hundreds, Raj has six alone. She also has more scores over 50 than the next three players combined. Raut's century against Australia was great but other than Raj's 69, only one player made double figures. This is a woman that has been not out in 28% of her ODI innings. She's not in another class, she is entirely a class of her own. Raj and Jhulan Goswami have been Indian cricket for the longest time.
But even with Raj's record and her lament at some of India's batting in this tournament, this is most probably the best team the country has ever put out on the field. They have a 25-7 win-loss record since the start of 2015, which is only inferior to Australia's.
Australia vice-captain Alex Blackwell called them a "dangerous unit" and said: "I'm very impressed with the way India have played in this tournament from the very beginning. Their match against England in round one. They were very proactive as a team and they have brought a more proactive approach to their batting in particular. I thought the way Punam Raut batted against us; she timed her innings beautifully."
Blackwell also praised the bowling. "The Indian bowling attack is dangerous if you allow them to bowl to you," she said. "They've got some excellent spinners, who don't necessarily give you a lot of flight to get down and hit the ball where you want to hit it".
All that makes it sound like Blackwell is more a fan of this Indian team than Raj, but since the loss to Australia, Raj has seen her team-mates step up. "The other batters are in form now. Harmanpreet Kaur is among runs now. Veda Krishnamurthy also scored runs. The positive of playing against New Zealand was that these two middle-order batters have runs backing them. We do have now, in the top four-five, at least three-four who are among runs."
And what does all that mean for Raj? "I won't probably be shackled, but I could play more positively tomorrow because I am confident that batters coming after me have runs and the ability to come along," she said.
The burden is gone, the shackles are off, and we're about to see the uncut Raj in one of the most important games of her incredibly long career. An unshackled Raj is something that could be very special because the shackled and burdened version has been the greatest of her generation, if not in history.
Even the unshackled Raj may not be enough to beat Australia, a team that has a 24-7 record against India during her career and have beaten them in seven of their last eight matches. Australia are a team that are favourites for this tournament, they are the reigning title holders, and it will need something special to topple them. A team effort, like the one that defeated England in the first game, is what India need. 'Magic Mithali' would be nice, but 'Incredible India' will have to do it.
And that this team is capable of that shows how much they have improved. Before the tournament Raj said: "I will be more than happy that I'm leading a team which can actually go on to be one of the best sides." Here, with her mix of young and old, overseas pros and raw talent, she can be in one of the best sides right now.
Raj won't captain India in the next World Cup. This might be her last significant moment. This is the one chance her team has to honour her, their hero, and greatest warrior. For her entire career, she has been burdened with being the one and only, and now in what could be her last, or, hopefully, second-last match, she has the chance to go out, having taken Indian cricket from the bottom to the top.
If there is any player who deserves to bow out in a packed Lord's, it's Raj. "I would love to be a part of that atmosphere," she said. "It tempts me but I realise tomorrow is the game that can get us there, and it gets me back into now that we have Australia to play."
An unshackled Raj at a packed Lord's and all she needs is her team to go from burden to brilliant. It's been 18 years; it's time.