Mithali Raj, the ODI captain of India, became the first woman cricketer to feature in 200 One Day Internationals (ODIs) in the third match of the three-match series against New Zealand on Friday at Seddon Park in Hamilton.
‘Record-Breaker’- the title perfectly suits Mithali Raj, the batting maestro as well as the flag bearer of women’s cricket for almost two decades in India. She is not only re-writing the history with her bat and leadership skill but has achieved another milestone in her life also. She inscribed her name in record books all over again with the 200 ODI appearances. Yes, there is probably nothing in international cricket, which she couldn’t achieve so far.
— ICC (@ICC) February 1, 2019
As a little kid, Mithali was too lazy and to inculcate the habit of early rising, her father Dorai Raj took her to the cricket academy. There she used to play with the boys under the late Sampath Kumar’s guidance. He was the first person who saw the spark in Mithali and said that she will have a bright career ahead. Back then, Mithali used to love dancing more than cricket.
Having started playing at the age of 10, she got her maiden call-up in the national team at the age of 16. At 16 years and 205 days, in her debut match against Ireland, she scored an unbeaten century. From that time to today, she has been having a career span of 19 years and 219 days and counting… which is the longest career among women cricketers. Only Sachin Tendulkar (463), Sanath Jayasuriya (445) and Javid Miandad (233) have had the longer International career than the India ODI captain.
Debut at the age of 16, Raj is the only woman cricketer to score more than 6,000 runs in ODIs with an average of more than 50 plus. Since her debut, she has missed only 13 ODIs and featured in 75.19 per cent of all the ODIs India have ever played from the beginning. She is one of those 5 players, who scored centuries in their debut matches.
She is the first player to score seven consecutive half-centuries in ODIs. She also holds the record for most half-centuries in ODIs (52) as well as the most 90s. Her 90s are no less important than a century, as most of those knocks came under pressure. During the Women’s T20 Asia Cup in June 2018, she became the first player from India (either male or female) to score 2000 runs in the shortest format of the game.
Mithali Raj also became the first woman cricketer to reach the feat. She is the only captain to lead India twice in ICC Women’s World Cup final, in 2005 and 2017. She has also captained India 123 times, more than any other captain in the women’s ODI. Former player Charlotte Edwards is at the second place with 117 games. She became the most capped player in the history of Women’s ODIs on Friday, 6th April 2018 during the first match between India and England in the three-match ODI series. Now, this 200th appearance in ODI has added another feather in her hat.
She holds another record in run chasing. She averages 111.29 in 48 successful chases where she was unbeaten 31 times. This average is better than MS Dhoni (103.07) and Virat Kohli (96.23). The next best average in successful run chases in women’s cricket is Australia captain Meg Lanning’s (78.34).
— BCCI Women (@BCCIWomen) February 1, 2019
Since she has achieved this feat, let’s reminisces some of her wonderful innings:
114* vs Irela1999nd ():
Having made her debut at 16 years 205 days during India’s tour of Ireland and England, she became the youngest woman cricketer to make a century while opening the innings. She and another debutant Reshma Gandhi made an unbroken 258-run stand which became a national record.
After 9 long years, the record was broken by Caroline Atkins and Sarah Taylor against South Africa on August 8, 2008. Later it took another 9 years to break the record. This time it was another Indian pair – Deepti Sharma and Punam Raut. Both of them scored 320 runs against Ireland on May 15, 2017.
Raj and Gandhi’s unbeaten 258-run stand remains the third-highest first-wicket partnership in women’s cricket till date. Mithali’s game had impressed everyone on her debut match and Indian Women’s Cricket had found their most dependable batter whose passion for the game still keeps her going.
91* vs New Zealand (2005):
This unbeaten 91 was one of her favourite knocks because her knock helped India to reach their first World Cup final. India were reduced to 38/2 within 14th over when the young captain Mithali Raj came into bat.
She found great support from Anjum Chopra and India put up 204 at the end of the 50 overs. Raj was dealing with a bad knee injury and she had to overcome it because the team was needed her the most that time. During the second innings, she couldn’t take the field due to her swollen knee. However, India claimed a ravishing 40-run win in the game.
94* vs England (2012):
Another favourite knock of Mithali Raj was her unbeaten 94 against England at Lord’s in 2012. Her knock helped to break England’s winning streak. Raj made a hundred-run stand with Punam Raut (60) for the second wicket a further 89-run with Harmanpreet Kaur.
Raj led from the front and anchor the innings till the end. However, Kaur’s dismissal when 14 required from 15 balls led the team into trouble as Veda Krishnamurthy got out in the final ball of the penultimate over. Sulakshana Naik’s run out from the second delivery of the final over brought Raj on strike and she hit the winning runs.
103* vs Pakistan (2013):
If you criticise her, she will bounce back strongly. It was during The ICC Women’s World Cup in 2013 at home where India had a dismal performance in every game. Everyone started questioning her ability as a player as well as a captain. She remained silent and her bat gave the answer to the critics.
Playing against arch-rival Pakistan at the Barabati Stadium where chasing more than 100 was difficult, Raj’s unbeaten hundred while chasing 193, helped India to register a six-wicket win. That win helped India to maintain their unbeaten record against Pakistan as well.
109 vs New Zealand (Derby, 2017):
After 12 long years, India were on a verge of reaching the final of ICC Women’s World Cup in 2017 because of their all-round performances. But they had to win their virtual quarter-final against New Zealand.
Mithali Raj, as always became the saviour of the team. She scored 109 off 123 with 11 fours. She found good supports from Harmanpreet Kaur and Veda Krishnamurthy and made 132 and 108-run stand respectively. After her stellar century, it was Rajeshwari Gayakwad who took a fifer and New Zealand were bundled out for 79 and India had a blistering 186-run win.
Being the stalwarts of the team, Raj has seen many changes revolving around her but she stood strong and adopted every change gracefully. From joining the celebration in the end after falling wickets to staying calm and handling immense pressure tactfully; she has redefined the word ‘Captain Cool’. Reading ‘Essential Rumi’ before going to bat to slamming the trollers on social media, she has inspired the whole nation both on and off the field.
In the nearly 20-year long international career, she has gone from strength to strength, smashing one record after another. The mountain of runs is the testimony to Raj’s longevity and unflinching passion towards the game and her team. She has the gift of timing and footwork. Hope her legacy continues and she achieves many more milestones.