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!
“All of us follow men’s cricket because we want at some point that women’s cricket would be up there.”
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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.
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.”
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.
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.”
Mithali Raj has been accoladed with many awards including the Arjuna Award for Outstanding Performance in Sports and Games in the year 2003.
- 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 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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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.