Mithali Raj. Thanks to the social media that this name is finally getting the recognition and appreciation it deserves. Women’s cricket has a rich history ignorant by cricket fans in general. The gentleman’s game has been fortunate enough to witness some graceful ladies creating historical on-field moments. There have been times when women cricketers have surpassed the male cricketers in every format and segments of the game.
The recent incident added to this list is when Mithali Raj scored her 17th T20 half-century against Ireland in the World T20, 2018. Mithali already entered the match as the highest run scorer for India in T20 (male or female) surpassing Rohit Sharma in the previous match against Pakistan. A smashing 50 helped her to reach this feat and also defeat arch rival by 7 wickets. After Pakistan match, Mithali Raj was topping the Indian chart of highest T20 run scorers with 2232 in 84 matches with Rohit Sharma 2207 runs from 87 matches.
What happened next in the Ireland match was even more brilliant. Mithali is already in great form and giving her all in her last twenty 20 world cup. During Ireland match, India lost the toss but managed to get a good start before Smriti Mandhana departed for 33. Mithali as always anchored the innings and faced the tight bowling of the Irish with fortitude. She added 51 runs off 56 balls and managed to take the team to a moderate target of 146 with a decent contribution from Jemimah and Dipti. The knock by Mithali didn’t only take India to the semi-final of World T20 from the group of death but it made Mithali the fourth highest run scorer of the world in T20 Internationals. The chart-toppers are Suzie Bates with 2,996 runs in 107 matches, Stafanie Taylor with 2,732 in 91 matches, Charlotte Edwards with 2,605 runs in 95 matches. Mithali Raj is just behind Charlotte Edwards now with 2,283 runs in 85 matches. During this dependable knock, she surpassed highest male run scorer in Twenty-20, Martin Guptill who has 2,271 runs in 75 matches.
How a classical dancer became one of the most successful cricketers of all time is a story of inspiration for many. Mithali proved her class on her debut match against Ireland when she scored 114 and became the fourth female player to do so after Enid Bakewell, Lynne Thomas and Reshma Gandhi. It was, in fact, the third highest score by a woman cricketer on her ODI debut after Lynne Thomas (134 in 1973) and Nicole Bolton (124 in 2014). Reshma Gandhi debuted in the same match and reached the hundred first which made her the first Indian woman cricketer to score a hundred on debut, followed by Mithali. Their partnership of 258 was the best partnership by Indian women cricketers at that point of time. Mithali was just 16 years and 250 days when she scored her first hundred and this made her the youngest female cricketer to score a hundred on debut.
Morning showed the day, and with time Mithali kept on showing her class and consistency on the field. Currently, this 35 old lady is the highest scorer in one-day international cricket with Charlotte Edwards, Belinda Clarke following her. She has 6,550 runs from 197 matches and is more than 2,000 runs ahead of Sarah Taylor who is the closest to Mithali among current contemporary players. This means India is topping the chart for highest run scorers and highest wicket-takers in one day international of all time with Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami in leading positions.
Mithali Raj will probably not be in the cricketing circuit for a very long time anymore. This record breaker and maker is still yet to win a world cup. Indian team is already in the semi-final of the ongoing T20 World Cup 2018. This will probably be the last chance for Mithali to touch the cup of dreams. Indian team has done well to tackle the group of death and hopefully will continue to do so till the last ball of the tournament. For Mithali it won’t be enough to reach the final because she reached it twice and lost. This time winning the cup is the only option for Mithali to end the glorious career on a happy note.