Mithali Raj has been the best batter in women’s cricket for a long time, even though the cricket crazed nation hardly seems to recognise the enormous feats the 34 year old from Jodhpur has achieved in her career that stretched back to almost 20 years. In her innings of 69 against Australia in the ICC Women’s World Cup on Wednesday, Raj crossed the 6000-run mark for the first time in the history of women’s ODI cricket, besting the record held by former England captain Charlotte Edwards by as many as 16 innings. Raj now has 6028 runs in 183 innings at an average of 51.52. Besides being the highest run getter, Mithali Raj also holds the record for the most number of ODI fifties – her knock against Australia was her 49th half century in ODIs, besides the five centuries that she has scored.
Mithali Raj has always been the precocious achiever – she was passionate about the Indian dance style of Bharatnatyam uncommon for girls her age, but then she took on something that was even more uncommon – cricket. Cricket may be the drug of the masses in India, but the passion is immensely sexist. From the pay to playing and training conditions to expectations, the game is rigged for the girls from the very beginning. However, a 16 year-old Mithali may have defied the wildest of these expectations when she became the youngest centurion when she hit 114 against Ireland at the Milton Keyes. The debut match was the introduction of the young genius to a world that was not watching and the feat went largely unnoticed.
The ICC World Cup for women has brought some sorely needed attention to Mithali and women’s cricket in India, and she lived up to the expectations by hitting a half century against England in the first match to become the first batter to score seven consecutive 50s. And with the tag of highest run scorer now, messages of congratulations are pouring in from everywhere. Although they lost to Australia, India are now looking to defeat New Zealand and get into the semis, where they hope a decent run may win some much needed attention to their state of play.