Queen Mithali: Captain Raj’s classy way of negating bowlers and hate
On 3rd July 2021, Mithali Raj overtook former England batter Charlotte Edwards to become the highest run-scorer across formats!
If you tend to speak your mind, chances are that you will be a divisive figure. The likelihood of it happening increases if you’re an outspoken woman in India. Doesn’t matter even if you’re Mithali Raj.
The story dates back to 2018, when Ramesh Powar (who’s now back in his second stint as Team India coach) decided that Mithali has no place in the T20I team. This was in the middle of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup. In her absence, India’s middle order capitulated against England which provided the plot to ignite a war of words.
Mithali’s manager had taken a public dig at T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur, calling her a “ manipulative, immature and undeserving captain.” Mithali chose to write a letter to the BCCI, accusing Powar of humiliating her and openly questioning her ability. Ramesh Powar was ousted from his role soon after.
Mithali struggled to buy a run when the women’s team played a rare one-off Test against England in June 2021. In case you were wondering “how rare” – this was her and the team’s 11th Test match since she debuted in 2002.
Absolutely every athlete who goes through a lean patch in the twilight of their career has encountered taunts and hecklers online, pushing through reminders that retirement is imminent.
India miraculously saved that Test courtesy of Sneh Rana and Taniya Bhatia’s 9th wicket partnership.
In the Women’s ODIs that followed, Mithali registered scores of 72*(108), 59(92) and 75*(86), in a match winning chase.
Indeed, her slow rate of scoring was questioned by the media. But it’s never easy to simultaneously prevent your team from a batting collapse and score at a brisk pace.
Had Mithali Raj not been at her assured best, India would probably have struggled to score 200 in either of the 3 WODIs.
In the 3rd WODI, she went past Charlotte Edwards’ 10273 runs to become the leading run-scorer in international cricket across all formats.
India were batting second and she could pace her game according to the target. Her strike rate was an impressive 87.21 and she went on to score her 3rd consecutive fifty in the series.
In fact in 2021, she’s been enjoying one of her best batting phases in the 50 over format. 5 fifty plus scores in 7 innings is an outstanding return! She’ll turn 39 in December, if that’s significant at all.
It may happen that New Zealand is where she decides to hang up her boots after next year’s World Cup. She’s not likely to be in the WT20I team that plays the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
But if Mithali decides to prolong her career after the World Cup, she’ll add far more than her 84 WODI wins as captain.
As sports fans (or critics), our memories tend to remain shortlived. But for a moment, let’s consider the 22 years of service Mithali Raj has given to the Indian team and put some respect on the name.
If you’re feeling charitable, go ahead and draw parallels with another Indian legend; also an all-time leading run-scorer in international cricket.