When one talks about international players from the 1990’s who are still active playing cricket in 2019, the immediate answer would be no. However, most cricket fans will forget to mention the name Mithali Raj. Mithali, considered to be one of the greatest women cricket players of all-time, recently created history during the India vs New Zealand ODI in Napier. She did not bat or bowl in a game which India won by nine wickets thanks to Smriti Mandhana’s century. However, Mithali’s presence at McLean Park created history. The game in 2019 was Mithali’s 19th year and 212th day as an international cricketer, breaking the record of 19 years and 195 days set by Ireland’s Clare Shillington.
Mithali made her ODI debut on June 26,1999 against Ireland at Milton Keynes. The right-hander immediately made an impact on debut as she blasted 114 to help India reach 258/0 in 50 overs and they won the match by 161 runs. The knock by Mithali set the trend where she would break plenty of records in a career which witnessed plenty of peaks and some lows.
The right-hander, born in Jodhpur, made her Test debut in 2002 and she created history when she smashed 214 against England at Taunton to help India draw the two-match series 0-0. The knock by Mithali established her as one of the best players in that era. The mark was emulated by Pakistan’s Kiran Baluch who smashed 242 against West Indies in Karachi in 2004.
Mithali has plenty of records in her ODI career. She is the only batter to score over 6500 runs and has played in the most games with 198. She has the fifth highest tally for centuries with seven while she is the only Indian player to have featured in both World Cup finals in 2005 and 2017, both of which India lost to Australia and England.
Recently, India women’s cricket team was plagued by a spat between Mithali and Harmanpreet Kaur as the veteran was left out of the crucial Twenty20 semi-final encounter against England in the West Indies. Ramesh Powar, who was the coach at that time, had said Mithali was ‘aloof’ and ‘difficult to handle’. Mithali’s manager called Harmanpreet ‘undeserving’ as a captain and accused her of being a liar. However, Mithali said she has moved on and under a new coach WV Raman, Indian cricket would be aiming to make good strides.
Mithali’s presence in the Indian team, for close to 20 years now, is a grand testament to her longevity and consistency. It is time to acknowledge Mithali’s greatness, not just for her contributions for the Indian team but for her overall contribution to women’s cricket.