In India, Mithali Raj, who turns 34 today, has been lazily and at times, patronisingly, been referred to as women cricket’s answer to Sachin Tendulkar. One glance at her records, though, show that the Hyderabad batter is a run-accumulator operating in her own league.
Raj currently tops all the batting records of her country and has led India to glory in tournaments aplenty over the last decade, which includes the 2005 World Cup final. With women’s cricket receiving step-motherly treatment, Raj’s large legion of fans never got to watch her best knocks, which includes her magnificent 214 at Taunton against England in 2002. It is a travesty that she has only played 10 Tests so far.
The Jodhpur-born player also scored a hundred in her maiden One-day International, aged just 16, against Ireland. This knock, which was against New Zealand, last year, shows a glimpse of how Raj goes about her business at the crease. Unlike Harmanpreet Kaur or a Veda Krishnamurthy, Raj has never been a big basher of the cricket ball.
Raj frustrates the bowlers with her sound technique and waits for bowlers to over-commit, which can result in them giving room outside the off-stump or bowling a full toss. This is where India’s Test and One-Day International skipper is at her very best, and never misses out on an opportunity, using her intuitive ability to pierce the field.
A majority of Raj’s runs also come in rotating the strike well, fully aware of her shortcomings in clubbing the ball out of the park, a skill set which her teammates Harmanpreet Kaur and Veda Krishnamurthy possess in good measure.
Well into her 30s now and a senior figure in the team, Raj continues to pile on runs at will, and is already seen as one of the giants of the women’s game. Not to mention, she’s a fantastic fielder to boot.