Even before the India cricket team have begun their Women's Cricket World Cup 2017 campaign in England, the skipper Mithali Raj is winning hearts. The 34-year-old gave a proper reply when she was asked who her favourite male cricketer by a journalist at the opening dinner and media roundtable event on the eve of the quadrennial one-day international ODI) tournament starting on Saturday in Derbyshire.
Raj, who will be leading India's campaign in England, made it clear that she does not want men and women cricketers to be compared. In a classy reply, that has earned the praise of the cricketing fraternity, the right-hander said: "Do you ask the same question to a male cricketer? Do you ask them who their favourite female cricketer is? I have always been asked who's your favourite cricketer but you should ask them who their favourite female cricketer is."
The comment comes at a time when the International Cricket Council (ICC) is coming up with new measures to help bring parity to the women's game. Notably, the 2017 edition of the Women's World Cup will have prize money of $2 million and the eight-team tournament will have television broadcast and live streaming as well.
Also, local cricket boards, including the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), are letting their women players play in Twenty20 leagues across the globe, which is seen as a big step towards improving the quality of the sport.
Raj feels that despite all the efforts, there is a lot that women's cricket needs to do to catch up with the male game. The world No. 2 ODI batswoman also revealed that her team is constantly trying to emulate their male counterparts' achievements at the international level.
"There is a lot of difference because we are not regulars on television. Now the BCCI has made an effort that the last two home series have been televised and social media has improved a lot of it but there is a still a lot of catch-up to do in terms of recognition," Raj added.
"Men's cricket sets the bar. We are always trying to reach where they set the standard. All of us follow men's cricket because we want at some point that women's cricket would be up there."
In what will be the 11th edition of Women's Cricket World Cup, India, who have impressed with consistent results in the recent past, are eyeing a maiden title. Raj's women open their campaign against hosts England at the County Ground in Derby on Saturday.
Also, India women are heading into their tournament opener on the back of a 109-run win against Sri Lanka in their final warm-up match on Wednesday. Skipper Raj led from the front with an 89-ball 85 to help the team post 275, which proved to be a steep target for Inoka Ranaweera's side.