On July 3, Mithali Raj became the leading run-getter in international women’s cricket across all formats. She now has 10,337 runs in 317 international appearances. She also became the number one ODI batter in the world on Tuesday. To commemorate her success and celebrate this legendary personality, Female Cricket invited Aarti Sankaran, Sharadha Sridharan, Harini Rana, and Niranjana Nagarajan on #FemaleCricketLive.
Early interactions with Mithali Raj and her greatness
Talking about Mithali Raj’s early days, Aarti said, “I had the opportunity of playing against her. It was my first U-19 for Tamil Nadu. We were playing against Andhra in Kerala. I was fielding at short square leg. Our captain bowled a full toss and Mithali hit it straight to me. I gently threw the ball back to the umpire. But all of a sudden all my teammates gathered around me and started celebrating. I told one of them it was just another wicket. My teammate told me we have got the India player Mithali Raj out. Since it was my first year I hardly had any idea about Indian women’s cricket and its legacy. After that tournament, we (Andhra and Tamil Nadu) went to Bihar and there Mithali played a scintillating knock scoring a 100 to win the match for her team single-handedly.”
Niranjana Nagarajan added, “I was 15-16 years old when I first met her. She was already a star in Indian women’s cricket. It was more of a professional interaction back then but as the years passed, we have become good friends. Mithali is a very jovial person. To outsiders, she may look strict and self confined, but let me tell you she is a very fun-loving character.”
Mithali over the years has played many wonderful knocks. Sharadha said, “Her century against New Zealand in the quarter-finals of 2017 World Cup is my favorite. It was a crucial innings. We lost early wickets and the onus was on Mithali. I feel her knock helped us to get a respectable score on board. Her inning was embellished with some beautiful straight drives. Those are still fresh in my memory.”
What’s the secret to Mithali Raj’s longevity in international cricket?
Raj has been around for more than 22 years and Aarti said, “Mithali’s love for the game is the driving force for her longevity and success. I feel that we do not choose the game, the game chooses us. Cricket has chosen her for a specific reason and for that reason her hunger has not gone. She is in her happy zone when she is playing. She always wants to be there in the middle.”
Harini Rana added, “Mithali’s journey over the years has been incredible. If I am not wrong she became the number one ODI batter in the world in 2005 and after that, she has made it there once again in 2021. This itself speaks volumes of her hard work and determination. Not to forget it was not a bed of roses for her, but every time she was pushed down, she made sure that she bounced back even harder.” She added, “Mithali Raj has created a brand for herself. She has a certain aura about her. I feel there are a lot of similarities between her and Sachin Tendulkar. The way she has gone about building her career and her consistency has been impeccable. From being a cricketer she has transformed into a personality who can influence and inspire more and more girls to take up cricket.”
What makes Mithali Raj different from other players?
The 38-year old has loads of attributes which has kept her going for so long. Aarti said, “Mithali’s commitment, single-mindedness, ability to stay focused over the years, and her belief in the process are immaculate. You cannot have another Mithali. She is a crowned jewel. You can have another crowned jewel but you cannot take this away from her.”
Sharadha added, “Her ability to stay for longer periods of time at the crease to take the team home and her guidance to junior players set her apart. She has clarity in the role given by the team management. Also, she can handle pressure with ease. This makes her special I feel.”
Niranjana further added, “While playing for Railways with Mithali, she has guided me many times as well. She used to tell me how I can approach my batting when we were under pressure. I followed whatever she was saying and it worked wonders. She even told me what the bowler is going to bowl and the bowler actually used to bowl that. I used to be surprised. She guided me beautifully. From her, I learnt to be calm and composed and now I guide my juniors.”
About her captainship, Niranjana said, “She is very clear in her mind. She does not settle for mediocracy. She wants certain things from players. If a player is not able to deliver the required, she talks to the player and makes her understand what she is expected to do. She is very calm and composed. She always leads from the front.”
What if India Wins the Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022…..
Before signing off the panel one by one commented on India’s chances in the World Cup 2022. Aarti said, “If we are able to win the trophy that will be the best thing to happen to women’s cricket. It will be a testimony to all the great legends that have played in the past. If they hadn’t played at that time, we would not have seen the kind of cricket that is being played today. Also, I would like to say that if India wins the Cup next year, it will not only be the contribution of the team playing but also of all the others who are playing at the club level or domestic level and the people who have been associated with women’s cricket over the years. I would like to say that it will be a story that has just begun.”
Sharadha mentioned, “It will be great if she gets her hands on the trophy because she deserves it the most. It will also play an influential role for girls who want to pursue cricket as a career. It will do wonders not only for players but also for support staff, journalists, and others involved in the sport.”
Harini averred, “After the 2017 World Cup, the Indian women’s cricket has garnered a lot of attention. People are following it religiously. I don’t remember when was the last time people were so much involved with Indian women’s cricket. I hope that we win the World Cup next year and the girls do the same what Yuvraj and Dhoni did for Sachin. Also I would like to make a small suggestion. If we go on to win the World Cup, the BCCI can actually invite all the women cricketers that have played for India so far and felicitate them at Wankhede as a mark of appreciation for the effort.”
Niranjana stated, “I feel that Mithali Raj deserves to win the World Cup next year. I know she has been pushing hard to keep herself fit and going to play in the competition. The win will be a true testament to whatever she has done over the years for Indian women’s cricket. I hope we win it in 2022.”
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I am a former cricketer having represented Mumbai University at All India University level. I was a part of MCA probables for the U-19 and U-23 age group. I have been an avid cricket writer for the last five years. Currently I am pursuing my Ph.D from IIT Bombay.