From a Classical Dancer to India’s Women Team Captain, Here’s the Story Of Mithali Raj!

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Mithali Raj

Having captained the Women in Blue, Mithali Raj’s name has become synonymous with women cricket in India. Clocking in a whopping 114 at the age of 16, this female cricketer wowed the world with her finesse in a sport that was considered rather male-oriented. She became an inspiration for every woman cricketer dreaming of a blue jersey and the chance to represent India on an international platform! Do you know that Mithali is also a trained Bharatnatyam dancer? Let’s explore her marvellous journey from a classical dancer to becoming the first woman to have a 20-year long career in international cricket!

Born Dec 03, 1982 (39 years)
Birth Place Jodhpur,Rajasthan
Height-Role Batsman
Batting Style Right Handed
Bowling Style Right-arm leg break

“All of us follow men’s cricket because we want at some point that women’s cricket would be up there.”

Early Life 

Born on December 3rd, 1982, in a Tamil family in the city of Jaipur, Rajasthan, Mithali Raj’s father is an Airman (Warrant Officer), Dorai Raj and mother is Leela Raj. Raj is a trained Bharatnatyam dancer. She had no plans of becoming a cricketer; in fact, she did not start playing before the age of 10. 

Early Life  - Mithali Raj
Image Source: Rediffmail

When her father was working with Andhra Bank, he used to take her to St. John’s Coaching Camp. Although her stay there was short since it was an all-boys coaching camp, it gave fire to the idea of her exploring her abilities in cricket. Mithali Raj got training from Sampath Kumar at Keyes School. She was told that he was a strict coach, but it was under his guidance and mentorship that Raj was able to explore and understand that her real calling in life is in the cricket field. 

Raj always enjoyed dancing, and that is why she also learned Bharatnatyam. While her mother wanted her to pursue Bharatnatyam as a career, her father wanted Mithali to become a cricketer. Mithali was hesitant in the beginning since she was from a Tamil background and no one in her family had explored cricket, let alone play it. It also came as a bit of a shocker to her grandparents as it was difficult for them to accept that their granddaughter would be playing cricket with boys! 

“The biggest challenge I faced when I started playing in the 90s was my immediate family members were not very keen that I get into sport, leave alone cricket.”

Early Career 

Early Career - Mithali Raj
Source: Gfycat

Mithali first played for the Railways in a domestic competition. She then played for Air India with famous cricket stars such as Anjum Chopra, Purnia Rau and Anju Jain. It can easily be said that Raj has worked her way to the top. She did not begin big, but by her continuous perseverance and dedication, she slowly and steadily paved her way amongst some of the finest cricketers our country has seen. 

In the 1997 Women’s Cricket World cup, Mithali was named among the probables. She was just 14 at that time. Although she did not make it to the final team, she did not lose heart and worked day and night to make her father’s dream come true. Finally, the big day came, and Mithali Raj debuted in ODI cricket on June 26, 1999. She played against Ireland and scored a whopping 114 runs! There was no looking back after this. Mithali went ahead to make her Test debut in 2001-2 season against South Africa. The match was played in the city of Lucknow. 

The list of achievements does not end here, when Mithali was just 19 years old, she broke the record of Karen Rolten and scored the world’s highest individual test score. She scored a total of 209 runs! Raj then went ahead to break her own record and scored a mesmerising 214 runs in a match against England. This was played in County Ground, Taunton. 

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Mithali Raj
Image Source: India Today

There was a bit of a rough patch in between when Raj fell severely ill with Typhoid. She recovered and then scored a phenomenal victory in Test and Series in England in 2006. She gave ended the year with an even bigger dhamaka and won the Asia Cup – the second time in a span of 12 months. She did this without dropping a single game! 

There has been no looking back for Raj as she was named the #1 cricketer in the 2013 Women’s World Cup. she also went on to become the second player to score 5,500 runs in WODIs. Raj is the first-ever player to have captained most matches for India in T20i and ODI. 

As of today, Raj has retired from T20i cricket. She aspires to win and bring home the World Cup for her country in the year 2021. 

“All the people who were needed to be told about my decision were informed. 2021 World Cup would definitely be my swansong. I am looking forward to preparing for the World Cup.”

Awards 

Mithali Raj has been accoladed with many awards including the Arjuna Award for Outstanding Performance in Sports and Games in the year 2003.

Mithali Raj
Image Source: The Better India
  • Arjuna Award – 2003
  • Youth Sports Icon Of Excellence Award – 2017
  • Padma Shri – 2015
  • BBC 100 Women – 2017 
  • Vogue Sportsperson of The Year – 2017
  • Wisden Leading Woman Cricketer in the World – 2017 
Mithali Raj
Image Source: The Cricketer

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Records 

Mithali Raj is a woman who has broken many gender stereotypes. She has proven time and again that women can play cricket and better than men! They can achieve anything they want to if they are determined and work hard for it. 

  • Raj is the first Indian and the fifth woman cricketer throughout the world to have scored 1,000 runs in the World Cup.
  • She also has an astounding record of the highest individual score made by an Indian woman cricketer, that too in a Wolrd Cup match. 
  • Mithali has been named ‘Lady Tendulkar of Indian Women’s Cricket’.
  • She has played the most consecutive Women’s Onde Day Internationals for a team. 
  • It is said that a movie is being made on the life of Mithali Raj. 

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Test Centuries

# Runs Match Opponents City/Country Venue Year
1 214 3 England Taunton, England County Ground 2002

One Day International Centuries

# Runs Match Opponents City/Country Venue Year
1 114* 1 Ireland Milton Keynes, England Campbell Park 1999
2 108* 66 Sri Lanka Karachi, Pakistan National Stadium 2006
3 109* 124 West Indies Rajkot, India Madhavrao Scindia Cricket Ground 2011
4 103* 145 Pakistan Cuttack, India Barabati Stadium 2013
5 104* 148 Sri Lanka Visakhapatnam, India Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy International Cricket Stadium 2014
6 109 184 New Zealand Derby, England County Ground 2017
7 125* 197 Sri Lanka Katunayake, Sri Lanka Chilaw Marians Cricket Club Ground 2018

10 Interesting Facts About Mithali Raj

  1. Mithali Dorai Raj was born in Jodhpur on December 3, 1982. Daughter of an Air Force officer, her interest to be a part of cricket started at the age of 10.
  2. Mithali has a very important player’s place in the Indian Women’s Cricket team with some great performances as captain and player both. She debuted in One-Day International (ODIs) in 1999 when 17-year-old woman ODI debutant fought against Ireland Women at Milton Keynes and scored a 114 runs
  3. She is till now only 1 of 5 women to score centuries on debut and the youngest centurion in women’s cricket history.
  4. Mithali became the 1st Indian woman and the 2nd female cricketer in the world to cross 5000 ODI runs. That day Twitterati made her famous as ‘Lady Sachin’.
  5. Young Mithali at the age of 19 on August 14, 2002, broke Karen Rolton’s record of highest individual test score.
  6. In 2003, she received the Arjuna Award.
  7. Under her captaincy in the year of 2006, the Indian women’s cricket team bagged their first Test and Series win in England. In the same year, the Indian team again won the Asian Cup, for the second time in twelve months.
  8. She has been titled as a “dangerous cricketer” due to her bowling techniques and unexpected attacking spirit.
  9. In 2015, she was presented with India’s fourth-highest civilian award, the Padma Shri.
  10. She has played 153 ODIs, 10 Tests and 47 T20 internationals since making her debut in 1999.
Credits – Oaktree Sports

Mithali Raj is truly an inspiration for every budding woman sports player in the country and around the world! If you liked this blog and found it entertaining, then stay posted to Leverage Edu for more informative content. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Quora and LinkedIn

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