A caring father who wanted to make his lethargic daughter more disciplined by pushing her to cricket practice. Little would that father know that this decision of his would give India a cricket run machine and that this reluctant child who hated cricket would turn out to be the highest run getter, a run machine in the history of women’s cricket. Ladies and gentlemen, this child is none another than the present captain of the Indian women’s cricket team, Mithali Raj. A trained bharatanatyam dancer for 8 years, who gave several stage shows, she had to choose between her dance and cricket when she found it difficult to manage the two and so opted for cricket.
Mithali raj childhood and entry into cricket:
Mithali Raj was born to Mr. Dorai Raj who worked with the Indian Air Force and Mrs. Leela Raj on December 3, 1982. She is a Tamilian born in Jodhpur, Rajasthan and currently residing in Hyderabad, Telangana – a true Indian in every sense. Keyes High School for Girls, Secunderabad was where Mithali did her schooling . She completed her intermediate education from Kasturba Gandhi Junior College for Women, Secunderabad. She has an elder brother Mithun Raj. Mithali faced a lot of flak from her relatives for choosing cricket, but her parents were the pillars of her strength and she pursued the sport.
At the young age of 14, Mithali was named the probables of the 1997 Women’s World Cup but she could not make it to the final selection list. Mithali made her debut at the age of 16 in 1999 against Ireland and her test debut was against England at Lucknow in 2002.
Her illustrious career and records:
Mithali Raj made her international ODI debut versus Ireland at Milton Keynes on Jun 26, 1999 and in her very first match she scored her first century which making her the youngest debut centurion(she was 16 years and 205 days old) in women’s ODIs, a record unbroken till this day[i]. She scored 114 not out which is the highest score by an Indian player on debut and the second highest by any debut player in women’s ODI cricket. Mithali made her test debut against England at Lucknow on Jan 14-17, 2002[ii].
Mithali played 186 ODIs, second only to CM Edwards England till date scoring 6,190 runs and she holds the record for the highest number of runs in ODIs. The 2017 ICC women’s world cup was a watershed event not only for women’s cricket in India but also the venue where Mithali became the highest run getter in ODIs. In the match against Australia, Mithali achieved the feat of 6000 runs, the first by any female cricketer. Here are some of the records she holds, ones that speak very less about this charismatic cricketer who is an icon of Women’s cricket not just in India but worldwide.
- At the age of 16 years and 205 days , Mithali started starting creating a name for herself. In her very first ODI, Mithali scored 114* against Ireland, making her the youngest debut woman cricketer to score a ton, a record unbroken till this day.
- Mithali is the first woman cricketer to surpass 6000 runs in ODIs. She has 6190 runs to her name as on date.
- She has played 186 ODIs till date, just 5 behind England’s Charlotte Edwards(191) and by April, 2018 she will have this record to her name too in the series against England.
- Mithali has an average of 51.58 in her 186 ODIs which is the second highest by any woman player who played more than 50 ODIs[iii] and the highest among any woman cricketer who played more than 100 ODIs.
- Mithali Raj is the first woman cricketer to have scored seven consecutive fifties in One Day Internationals (ODIs). The ICC Women’s World cup, 2017 match of India vs. England was where she achieved this feat. She scored 71 in this match.
- Mithali also holds the record of most nineties(5) in women’s ODI history.[iv]
- Mithali jointly shares the record for the most fifties in Women’s cricket(55) along with CM Edwards, England.[v]
- Mithali also has the second highest test score in Women’s cricket. She scored 214 against England in Taunton in 2002.[vi]
- Mithali played 109 consecutive ODIs for India from 2004-2013, the highest by any woman cricketer till date.
- Mithali batted in all positions from 1-9, a feat no other female cricketer can boast of.
- Mithali led India for the first time in 2004 versus the West Indies . She was 21 years, 94 days old when she first captained India making her the youngest captain for India in ODIs. Mithali led India in 106 ODIs of which India won 65 matches, lost 38, with three games ending in no result (the win percentage – 61.32)[vii].
- For the first time ever, Mithali led the Indian Women’s cricket team to finals in the Women’s World Cup 2005 but lost to Australia.
- The Indian side won their first-ever Test and series victory in England in 2006 and finished the year winning the Asia Cup under the captaincy of Mithali. In May 2008, India won its fourth successive Asia Cup title under the captaincy of Mithali Raj . [viii]
- Mithali has played 5 world cups and she has led the team to finals in 2005 and 2017. Mithali scored 1086 runs from 29 World Cup matches – this includes two centuries and nine half-centuries at an average of 57.15 .
Awards and Recognition:
Mithali Raj was awarded the Arjuna award in the year 2003. In 2015, Mithali was awarded Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India. Mithali, in 2015 became the first woman cricketer to win the Wisden India cricketer of the year.[ix] Mithali has made in into one of the most influential women in India , BBC’s 100 Women list 2017. Penguin Random House India has acquired the rights to publish Mithali Raj’s autobiography and it is high time the world heard her story, the story of a fighter and a crusader.
In 2017, India Women’s team almost won the ICC Women’s World Cup against England but their performance won them laurels and this tournament turned the tide for Women’s cricket as the Indian audience watched the tournament with enthusiasm and the players got the recognition they truly deserved. Behind this success, Mithali Raj played a crucial role and she made the team believe in their capabilities. Mithali has amassed many more records in her 18 year long career and still will achieve many. On being, addressed as ‘Lady Sachin’, she says she is truly honored but then she feels, it would be great if people recognize her as Mithali as she worked a lot to be where she is today. True words from a champion and it is high time we recognize and honor this legend, an icon of Women’s cricket.