The Unstoppable Raj: She bats,She leads
'In addition, I believe one should not be bossy. Leading is often confused with dominance. Consider opinions of people in your team, hearing out everybody boosts the morale of the team,' said Mithali Raj, captain of Indian Women's Cricket Team.
A recipient of the Arjuna award for the year 2003 and Padma Shri in 2015, Mithali Raj led Indian women cricket team to the finals of 2005 Women's Cricket World Cup prior to repeating the feat in 2017. Great achievement indeed by someone who at 2013 world cup starred as the numero uno cricketer in the ODI chart among women. Further, in February 2017, she became the second player to make 5,500 runs in WODIs. Raj shares her thoughts on 'leadership' with BW People's Aradhana and Himani Chandna. Edited Excerpts:
What is leadership for you?
According to me, a leader should be flexible, strong and always forward looking. I also make mistakes. Its’ human and contemplating them is fine, but brooding over them hamper one’s results.
In addition, I believe one should not be bossy. Leading is often confused with dominance. Consider opinions of people in your team, hearing out everybody boosts the morale of the team.
How a leader motivates his/her team?
A leader must know that losing one game or losing one contract or deal will not make you a bad player or a bad company. It is important to understand that winning and losing are part of life. Losing, at times, is required to understand the importance of winning.
What is the basic ingredient that a leader needs to find in him team or employees?
Intention to win! You might have lost but everyone has put all the efforts. A good leader will always recognize efforts.
What are your strengths as a leader of Indian women cricket team?
I am composed and I believe in my conviction. I am confident enough to take decisions and stand for what I believe in.
What are your weaknesses?
I would not be a very shrewd leader if I were to admit one… I, at times, have so much confidence on some player but that player is just not confident about herself. There, I believe I shouldn’t really follow my gut feeling always.
Who has been your inspiration?
My parents are and have been my inspiration. I got into the profession where the encouragement was not much. Cricket for women is not a very motivating profession as no one expects anything from you. Every time I did well and if my parents were happy, it was like I have won accolades from the whole world. However, as we started winning, I have realised that representing your country on international arena gives you enough strength and highly motivates you.
Are you open to debates on your decisions with your team mates?
Sharing, and respecting others' opinions are fundamental teamwork values. It's important to listen to one's co-workers' comments and opinions. Then, you can decide on your priorities according to your conscience and competence. I also believe in taking perspectives from senior players in the team.
What is your leadership mantra?
I think there is more than one. Firstly, leadership consists of the ability to make decisions and shoulder responsibility. Secondly, it is also about giving freedom to everyone to generate ideas.
Do you think the scenario of women's cricket in India has changed after this world cup?
Yes, a lot has changed. Most of all, people have started accepting women players and we get very good response from our audience now. It happened for the first time that we received tremendous support from people all over the country. A new game has begun for us.
Can you share a few incidents where you made a crucial decision in this World Cup?
The most crucial ones follow winning the toss. What to choose! We made some smart decisions and that lead us to finals.
What are the challenges that you face in your career and how did you counter that?
Initially it was my career choice (a challenged that I loved), I have been looked at differently as I was trained in all boys academy. It was not an easy journey. If you are reaching heights, you will have company of the kinds that will appreciate your efforts and other, who will be jealous. Therefore, I do face criticism on irrigational grounds. I always welcome constructive criticism.
As a leader, you have to oblige but you should stick to your values as well. Always think to develop and grow on.
At the end of the day, leaders cannot show vulnerability, they cannot be biased and they cannot have their favorites.
Whom do you look to in case of dilemmas?
I seek advice from concerned persons. Mostly, I believe in doing right thing. You might not get support from everyday but you should go for the right thing. That would be the time when you have to exercise your own will for the good of your team. I have experienced that the repercussions of right thing are always right. At least, I do not regret such decisions.
Mentoring and continuous learning is very important in life, what do you have to say about your coach?
I think many people contribute in your growth over the time. I had different coaches. When my first coach handed over the bat to me; that was my first learning. Next one taught me the fundamentals of gaming and so on. In the journey, you meet different people with different values and qualities. I am grateful to all my coaches. Constant learning is very important. In addition, to polish whatever you have learnt is the key in my game.
How do you balance work life? What do you like to do in breaks?
Well, I do not have the privilege to take breaks from the game but whenever I do, I like to read books. I have just finished The Aryavarta Chronicles and The Heroes of Olympus. I like to watch TV series also, Games of thrones is very addictive these days.
As most of male cricketers are businesspersons and investing in clothing brands, opening academy and buying stakes in start ups, do you have any such plans?
Right now, I do not have such plans, especially not to invest in a clothing line. However, I will like to contribute to strengthen women’s cricket in India. I will do my best and let us see what challenges it will open for me.
Leaders also have their weak moments. Can you share an incident that influenced your life and kept you going?
Your question reminded me of World Cup 2009, when I decided that this will be my last world cup as I was injured very badly. I was very hard on myself and injuries hurt you more emotionally than physically. I was not able to perform up to the expectations of people that made me low. Because the game demands nothing but the best that, you can give.
I was verge on quitting when matches started to be telecast on TV and I got very positive response so I continued the journey.
What would Mithali Raj be if not a cricketer? How important is it to be yourself to set an example?
I would have been a dancer. It is very important to be yourself. Nobody can substitute the talents that you have. Recognition of the strengths and weaknesses is very important for an individual to grow. Cricket is a part of the bigger game, which is life. Prepare for that.