Legendary Leader Mithali Raj Leaves a Legacy with her Retirement

Mithali Raj needs no introduction whatsoever; rather she deserves all the appreciation from everyone for choosing to make the bowlers dance to her tunes than dancing to the tunes of music herself. India’s Test and ODI captain chose cricket over Bharatnatyam, a dance form that she loved and learnt in her childhood. She is a trained Bharatnatyam dancer and was on the verge of completing Arangetram, before cricket took precedence.

 

Mithali Raj Jumps to 2nd Place as ICC releases updated ODI Batting Ranking
Mithali Raj Jumps to 2nd Place as ICC releases updated ODI Batting Ranking

 

Mithali was born on December 3, 1982 in Jodhpur, a city in the state of Rajasthan, to Dorai and Leela Raj. Dorai Raj is a former Indian Air Force officer, while Leela Raj is a happy home-maker. Though Mithali was born in the north-western state of Rajasthan in India, she was brought up in the south in Hyderabad.

She took up cricket formally at the age of 10. It was more from a discipline point of view than a career standpoint that Mithali’s parents wanted her to take up cricket, which would mean, waking up early in the morning every day for practice. By the time she was 12, she had moved into the highly competitive league run by Andhra Pradesh Women’s Cricket Association and started plundering runs. At 14, Raj was considered talented enough to play in the Senior Nationals, in 1995, alongside Indian players like Rajni Venugopal, Vanitha Viola, and Purnima Rau, among others.

She was not yet 15 when chosen as one of the probable Indian players for the 1997 World Cup played in India. She idolized Kapil Dev and started off her cricket as an opening medium pace bowler and an opening batter. However, with the passage of time, Mithali as a batswoman took the better off Mithali as an opening medium pace bowler. She started concentrating on her batting and honing her batting skills. As she could not devote much time to medium pace bowling, she dropped it from her armory and picked up the leg break.

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Mithali Raj
Mithali Raj

 

Mithali made her international debut at the age of just 16 against Ireland in 1999. Since then, over her illustrious international career spanning more than two decades, she has shattered many records. She is the number one run-getter across formats. She is the first woman cricketer to go past 7000 international runs. She has the highest number of half-centuries in WODIs. She is also the first woman cricketer to score seven consecutive half-centuries in ODI cricket. She is the youngest to score a Test double century and the youngest to score an ODI century.

Apart from her prolific batting, Mithali has been a great leader over the years of the Indian women’s cricket team. She has led India in a total of 183 international matches, including 143 ODIs, 32 T20Is, and eight Tests. Mithali has been the captain in 143 ODIs, which is the highest for any woman cricketer. She enjoys a success rate of over 60 percent as she has won 85 out of the 143 ODIs. In the T20Is, she has led the side on 32 occasions and guided the team to victory in 17 matches. In Test cricket, she has been the captain for eight matches, winning three and losing just one. The remaining four matches ended in a draw.

 

Mithali Raj in action on Day 4 of the Test against England. PC: Getty Images
Mithali Raj in action on Day 4 of the Test against England. PC: Getty Images

 

As a player, Mithali will be playing her sixth World Cup this year, having captained in five of them. With 31 World Cup matches, she is the most capped Indian woman in the ICC event. Out of the 31 matches, she has led India in 21, which makes her the most captained Indian woman and the second-most in the world in World Cups. In her first World Cup as the captain in 2005, she led India to the finals against Australia in South Africa. 12 years later, she again captained her side in the World Cup finals against England in their own backyard in 2017. She is the only Indian, across men and women, to lead India to two World Cup finals.

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Heather Knight and India's Mithali Raj pose with the trophy Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley
England’s Heather Knight and India’s Mithali Raj pose with the trophy Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

 

From playing her first-ever World Cup in 2000 in New Zealand to playing her last World Cup in 2022 also in the same country, life indeed came a full circle for Mithali Dorai Raj.

Today on 8th June 2022, the legend of Indian Cricket decides to retire from all forms of International Cricket.

She took to Twitter to announce the news which left many fans heartbroken. Her 23-year-long cricket legacy will always stay in our hearts, for everything she did to elevate women’s cricket, not just in India, but across the globe as well.

Go Well Mithali Raj!

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.

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