There is no shortage of stars in Indian women’s cricket now. It wasn’t so for a long, long time. There was only one poster girl in the game – Mithali Raj.
Before Harmanpreet Kaur did a Kapil Dev at the 2017 Women’s World Cup in England, women’s cricket in India barely received any attention. If it made the news, it was always about the latest feat achieved by Mithali.
And she made news at regular intervals. Runs flowed freely from her bat. Those runs would break many significant records.
It’s no exaggeration to say that she was synonymous with Indian women’s cricket for a long time. But for much of her career, she didn’t get the dues that her efforts deserved. For, she was playing at a time when the women’s game had few takers and little money.
READ: Mithali Raj announces retirement from international cricket
Today, a Kiran Navgire becomes a star with just one knock. Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur and Shafali Verma are household names and are in demand for franchise leagues overseas. Harleen Deol trends on social media on account of a catch. And there is money in women’s cricket now.
Mithali has announced that she would no longer play in any form of international cricket. She was non-committal during the World Cup in New Zealand about her retirement plans, but now we know that the semifinal against South Africa in Christchurch on March 27 was her last outing for the country.
The writing was on the wall when Mithali was not picked for the Women’s T20 Challenge – the precursor to the Women’s IPL – in Pune late last month. She had been part of the first three editions and was the captain of Velocity in the last two. But she had not played a T20I since 2019.
She has amassed 7805 runs in 232 ODIs and 2364 runs in 89 T20Is. The graceful batter played only 12 Tests since her debut in 2002 as the women’s game saw very little of the cricket’s longest format. She scored 699 runs in those Tests and her 214, which she made in Taunton against England in August 2002, remains the second-highest individual score in Women’s Tests.
With 10,868 runs she is the highest scorer in international women’s cricket. She is also the highest run getter in WODI, in which she made a stunning debut at 16, with an unbeaten 114. Mithali also led India to two World Cup finals, but both ended in heartbreaks.
Her contribution to Indian women’s cricket goes much beyond all these numbers. Her bat carried the Indian innings for a couple of decades as she inspired several girls to pick up a cricket bat at a time when it wasn’t the most glamorous thing to do.