Mithali and Jhulan: The pillars of Indian women’s cricket for the longest time

Mithali and Jhulan have been the two strongest pillars of this popular Indian women’s team for the longest time -- getting into the widely male dominated sport in the country.

When Mithali and Jhulan started out, a couple of decades ago, it was almost the dark age for women’s cricket India and if they managed to get some space in the media was because they have been so good at what they did. (File Photo)   -  GETTY IMAGES

On the day Mithali Raj broke the record for most matches as captain at the Women’s World Cup, her Indian teammate Jhulan Goswami became the tournament’s leading wicket-taker in history.

Significant feats both certainly were, yet neither woman was the day’s biggest story from Hamilton on Saturday. The batting of Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur was.

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With their hundreds, the duo gave the women in blue a badly-needed win against the West Indies to put their World-Cup campaign back on track. They deserved all the praise that came their way.

The achievements of Mithali and Jhulan may not have got as much attention as they probably would have on another day. Neither would have complained, though.

Mithali Raj (left) and Jhulan Goswami (right) have been to Indian women’s cricket what Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev were to the men’s. (File Photo)   -  THE HINDU

For all the individual glories, cricket is a team game at the end of the day. Mithali and Jhulan have been the two strongest pillars of this popular Indian women’s team for the longest time. They have been to Indian women’s cricket what Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev were to the men’s.

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When Mithali and Jhulan started out, a couple of decades ago, it was almost the dark age for women’s cricket in the country. There was little money, few opportunities, and very little coverage in the media.

If Mithali and Jhulan still managed to get some space in the newspapers, or in the television news bulletins occasionally, those days, that was because they have been so good at what they did.

Raj and Jhulan's latest records have to be celebrated -- not just because they may not be around for long to make more, but because they are important ones, too. (File Photo)   -  GETTY IMAGES

It wasn’t merely runs that followed from Mithali’s bat. There were records, too. It wasn’t just that wickets Jhulan’s bowling produced. There were records, too.

Their latest records have to be celebrated. Not just because they may not be around for long to make more – they are both 39 – but because they are important ones, too. And they remind us how durable these two women have been.

When somebody walks out to toss for the 24th time in a World Cup match, it is a milestone to be proud of. No woman had taken as many steps towards a cricket pitch to flip a coin.

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Mithali, who broke the record of Australia’s Belinda Clark, had captained India for the first time at the 2005 World Cup; she had led her team to the final.

It was in that very tournament in South Africa that Jhulan took her first World-Cup wicket. Seventeen years later, she took her 40th at Hamilton, as she went past the record of Lynette Fullston, another Australian.

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