In a time when women’s sports were not that popular, especially a sport like cricket, a 16-year girl made her debut in 1999 and scored a century. Mithali Raj proved the world that perseverance and hard work will bring success eventually. Along with Jhulan Goswami, Mithali Raj has been the backbone of the women’s cricket […]
In a time when women’s sports were not that popular, especially a sport like cricket, a 16-year girl made her debut in 1999 and scored a century. Mithali Raj proved the world that perseverance and hard work will bring success eventually. Along with Jhulan Goswami, Mithali Raj has been the backbone of the women’s cricket team for the last two decades and literally shouldered the team to the position it is in today. The highest run-scorer in the history of women’s cricket and with the greatest number of matches played, she is the most celebrated player in the world based on individual skills. Let us look at Mithali Raj’s illustrious career and the stories behind the making of a world-class player.
Mithali Raj – A Child prodigy Ignored!
Mithali Raj, born in Jodhpur in a Tamil family, grew up in the city of Hyderabad. She followed the footsteps of her elder brother and started playing cricket from a very young age. As one can expect from an Indian family, her father asked her to focus on studies but surprisingly never asked her to leave cricket. Since she mostly played with boys, she was a cut above than the rest of the girls her age. She soon started playing with a professional team and in just 4 years, and by the time she was 14, most selectors in the country had their eyes on her. To everyone’s surprise, the 14-year old was named in the list of probables for the 1997 World Cup Squad. However, she did not get picked as the selectors thought that she was too young and raw to play against experienced players from around the world.
However, she kept on performing at various levels and as a result, got a national call-up in 1999, when she made her ODI debut at the age of 16. She announced herself on the international stage by hitting a century on her debut itself. Well, it won’t be wrong to say that everyone in the cricketing fraternity knew that she’s here to stay. She then made her Test debut in 2002 and in only her third test match, broke the world record of the highest individual score in women’s test cricket. Her 214 came at a tender age of just 19. She soon became the captain of the side and led the team to the 2005 World Cup final, which India lost. Since then, she and Jhulan Goswami have led the team from time to time, until she recently took a backseat. She is now playing as the senior batswoman in the team. What’s more, she is only the third player in women’s cricket to have led a side for more than a 100 ODIs.
A long roller-coaster ride
Mithali Raj’s career has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride as she has gone through multiple injuries in her two-decade long career. If not for her injuries, she very well could have scored at least 2000 more runs in her career. Even with all those injuries, Mithali Raj is the highest run-scorer in women’s cricket in ODIs with a whopping tally of 6888 runs at an envious average of 50.64, almost a thousand runs more than her closest rival. She is the only player with 6000+ runs and could very well become the first to reach the milestone of 7000 ODI runs as well. Her tally of 53 hundreds and 7 of them coming on the trot are both a world record. All these accolades have made her the face of women’s cricket around the world.
A long unfinished dream
If we look way back at Mithali Raj’s career, it all started with a World Cup. She got snubbed for the 1997 World Cup, could not play the 2003 World Cup due to high typhoid, lost the 2005 final and then went out of the subsequent tournaments early. At the age of 35, Mithali Raj made it a point to be her best in what could have been possibly her last World Cup in 2017. India played exceptionally well as a team and reached the final once again after 12 years. However, the team could not finish the final line as they lost to England by a mere 9 runs. Expectedly, Raj was devastated as she had never been this close to lifting a World Cup in her life.
Soon, everyone started talking about her retirement as she was already stretching it at 35. However, the fighter in her is still not ready to give up and now is solely focussing on performing in the 2021 World Cup. As a result, she has even quit the shortest format so that she stays fit for that one last push to achieve that world cup she has chased all her life.
The focus with which Mithali Raj is still chasing her dream, even after achieving almost everything in her life, just shows us how important it is to be determined to achieve what you have set eyes on. She’s not just an inspiration for women or girls around the world but for people of all genders and age groups. There’s no doubt that her performances at the international level has led to the making of many more Mithalis in the world.