Mithali Raj –the run machine

                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 in 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.

 

Her 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. She did her schooling from Keyes High School for
Girls, Secunderabad and her intermediate 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 age of
14, she was named among the probables in the 1997 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.

 

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 made her the youngest debut centurion in women’s ODIs, a record
unbroken till this dayi.
This is the highest score by an Indian on debut and second highest by any debut
player in ODIs. Mithali made her test debut against England  at
Lucknow on  Jan 14-17, 2002ii

 

Mithali
played 186 ODIs till date scoring 6,190 runs and she is the highest run getter
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 say very less about this charismatic
cricketer who is an icon of Women’s cricket not just in India but worldwide.

1.       Youngest
debutant women’s player to score a century – she was 16 years and 205 days old
when she achieved this feat.

2.       First
woman cricketer to surpass 6000 runs in ODIs. She has 6190 runs to her name as
on date.

3.       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.

4.       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
ODIsiii.

5.      
Mithali Raj is the first woman cricketer who 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.

6.      
Mithali has the record of most nineties(5)  in women’s ODIiv

7.      
Mithali jointly shares the record for the most fifties in Women’s
cricket(55) along with CM Edwards, England.v

8.      
Mithali also has the second highest test score in Women’s cricket.
She scored 214 against England in Taunton in 2002.vi

Mithali has 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 captained India for the
first time in 2004 versus the West Indies at the age of 21 years, 94 days.
She is 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.
In 2005, Mithali led the Indian cricket team to
World Cup finals but lost to Australia.

13.    In
August 2006 Mithali led the Indian side to their first-ever Test and series
victory in England and wrapped up the year winning the Asia Cup. In May 2008, India
won its  fourth successive Asia Cup title
under the captaincy of Mithali Raj . viii

14.   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 2003. In 2015, Mithali was awarded Padma Shri, the
fourth highest civilian award in India. Mithali is the first women cricketer to
win the Wisden India cricketer of the year.ix
Mithali has been described as one of the most influential women in India in
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.

i  http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/284144.html

ii   http://www.espncricinfo.com/india/content/player/54273.html

iii http://stats.espncricinfo.com/wi/content/records/284195.html

iv  http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/284123.html

v  http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/284107.html

vi  http://static.espncricinfo.com/db/STATS/WOMEN/WT/BATTING/WT_AVS_BAT_HIGH_INNS_SCORES.html

vii http://www.cricketcountry.com/articles/mithali-raj-37-interesting-facts-about-indias-best-batswoman-510529

viii
http://www.espncricinfo.com/india/content/player/54273.html#statistics

ix https://www.wisdenindia.com/cricket-news/mithali-raj-proud-receive-wisden-india-honour/161213