Cricket is a huge deal in India, even after independence the only time the country comes to a standstill is when India is playing Pakistan. Although men’s cricket is well funded and attracts a broad audience, women’s cricket is still underfunded and under-appreciated. However, Mithali Raj has weathered the storm and completed 20 years in professional cricket.
Early Life and Career
Mithali Raj was born on the 3rd of December in Rajasthan. She comes from a defence background and would play cricket with her elder brother and practice in school as well. Due to the nature of her defence background, she embodied perseverance and spirit.
She got her international debut in 1999 when she was picked for an ODI against Ireland. Her debut proved to be impressive as she scored an unbeaten 114 run in the match. This made her only the second woman to achieve this feat. It also made her the youngest player ever to score a century for both men and women’s cricket. She was just 17 years old. She later played her first test match in 2000-01 season when she was picked for the Test coordinate against South Africa in Lucknow.
In the following year, in 2002, she entered her name in the record books by scoring the highest individual score in Women’s Tests around then. It was made during the subsequent test series against England at Taunton when she scored 214 runs outperforming Karen Rolton’s record of an unbeaten 209. Even though that record didn’t stay for long, as Kiran Baluch of Pakistan scored 242 against the West Indies in 2004. She only missed the 2000 world cup due to typhoid.
A stint as the captain of the Indian women’s team
Mithali Raj had already missed two world cups one in 1997 and 2000(due to illness). However, she was selected as the captain for the 2005 edition of the tournament. In this tournament, Mithali Raj single handedly dragged the Indian team to the finals of the world cup.over the course of the competition Mithali Raj scored over 199 runs in 7 matches, including two half-centuries. However, in the final match, Australia proved to be a very tough opponent and won the match. She was also awarded the Arjuna award for cricket in 2003.
Post-2005 World Cup Career and Achievements
In 2006 she led India to their first-ever test victory on English soil. The tournament where Mithali Raj cemented her legacy was the Asia cup. Winning all their matches in 2006, on the way to win the tournament. She managed to win four consecutive Asia cups with team India. It was her performance in these tournaments, which earned her a reputation for having the ability to score quick runs and stay calm and composed in critical situations.
2017 World Cup and t20 Retirement
Mithali Raj had already cemented her place as a legend in women’s cricket. Her performance in 2017 indeed proved her class; she scored her 7th half-century in a world cup format. The team made it to the finals but lost at the final hurdle again , this time to England by 9 runs. Mithali Raj made the country proud as she overcame significant hardships. She has played most of her cricket matches in empty stadiums and trained in under-equipped training facilities. What she has achieved in cricket is nothing short of extraordinary. She recently announced her retirement from t20 cricket so that she could focus on the 2021 world cup
Mithali Raj’s Achievements:
- Youngest debutant to score a century in an ODI.
- Won 4 Asia cups consecutively
- Awarded Arjuna award for cricket in 2003
- Lead India to world cup finals
- She has scored the highest run by a female cricket at 6800runs+
- She is also the only woman to play more than 200 ODI matches.