The unmatched and undying legacy of Mithali Raj

Belonging to a Tamil family, growing up in Rajasthan, leading India to the top of the sport in India, and today, recognized all over the world wherever Cricket binds people like no other thing can or does, it’s hardly any doubt why Mithali Raj is the darling of the cricket fraternity.


Indian Women's Team for the Test against England. PC: Getty Images
Indian Women’s Team for the Test against England. PC: Getty Images


In a sport where, they say, you are about as good as your last inning, Mithali Raj doesn’t need to worry, for her last three scores read- 75 off 86, 59 off 92, and 72 off 108, respectively.

Yet make no mistake. India’s recent fortunes in their tour to England have seen the team utterly unable to match up to England. Though the only contest the visitors won came at the behest of a sensational inning, which culminated into a fifty-eighth (58th) ODI half-century by the most reliable bat of the team.

What was promising was that Mithali remained at the crease long after her side gave up against an attack featuring the dangerous pace trio of Brunt, Cross, and Sciver and clever Ecclestone. What wasn’t – was that the next-best score by an Indian was Smriti Mandhana’s 49.

The criticism, then leveled at Mithali Raj – a paragon of excellence – in the light of her ‘batting a bit slow’ finds itself worthless and needless for the simple reason that not even a single Indian talent of the eleven was able to score a fifty whilst the team’s oldest figure scored three on the trot. 

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So how did this happen?

There are some who make a huge hue-and-cry about every single thing in the game, but then the sport is also fortunate to be served by those who quietly go about doing their thing.

In an age favoring histrionics and bang-bang cricket, Mithali Raj is a throwback to an era where the art of self-preservation and dependability were considered the real virtues. Perhaps that is why in the very age where Chris Gayle and David Warner are considered giants, a Dravid still finds himself relevant, actually much needed.

Mithali Raj’s greatest achievement, and it must be noted, is the fact that her sheer presence lends poise and stability to a unit that suddenly seems vulnerable without her. Someone who reminds us of values today considered old-fashioned but are second to none. Much like the surreal pleasure of clicking a group family picture from a Kodak lens, instead of jarring on one other for selfies!

But little would they understand who only understand inflated strike rates, not the art of sticking it around, and waging a lone fight- right?

India, on their part, must consider themselves fortunate to be still being served by two veterans of the game who haven’t waned out by the changing vagaries of time – forget not Jhulan Goswami. Though, it’s painful in some ways to find the so-called ‘cricket experts,’ often those who combine white sporting shoes over pink ties and green jackets to pass judgment over a cricketer who’s given two decades of her life as a humble servant of Indian Cricket.

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Yet, one her part, the unperturbed Mithali Raj knows one thing and one thing alone, which is to score runs.

A parable of her success puts into focus her high standards of fitness and the ability to focus for long hours at the crease even after representing her country for no fewer than 307 internationals at the highest stage.

What’s more?

There was no song or drama, hype or hyperbole when she recently placed India on a newfound pedestal of absolute excellence in the sport by becoming the highest run-scorer in international cricket.  With 10,337 international runs, Mithali’s doggedness and single-minded focus ensured that the honors for being women’s cricket’s highest run-getter were snatched from Charlotte Edwards (another legend); belonging to the very team that proved to be India’s undoing recently.

But as they say with the coming up of every new day, also comes a new opportunity to begin again.

Another episode of timeless act of courage and consistency, one hopes? The intrepid cricket follower would expect no less from a giant of the game.

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