Sachin Tendulkar is one of the greatest cricketers to have played the game. None have shown his consistency over various formats. He is the definitive G.O.A.T of cricket, and surpassing his legacy will take a great bit of doing.
So when you are called the female Sachin Tendulkar, you must be a genius at cricket. Enter Mithali Raj, a role model and heroine for India, the world, and especially for girls and women.
Excellence in execution
Mithali Dorai Raj is an Indian cricketer. She has captained her national team in the Test and ODI format of the game. By profile, she is a right-handed batter who opens for her team. She also bowls the occasional overs, and is a right-arm leg-break bowler.
Mithali is not just a cricketer, but a proper legend of the game. To both stats-fans and the eye-test advocates, she passes with flying colours. She is the highest run-scorer in the history of women’s international cricket. That itself puts her in the elite tier of female cricketers, but there are more records she holds.
Mithali is also the only female cricketer in history to cross 7,000 career runs in Women’s One Day International matches. She holds the distinction of being the first player to score seven consecutive fifties in ODIs, and has also scored the highest number of half-centuries in the format.
The icing on the cake has to be the record she set during the 2018 Women’s Twenty20 Asia Cup, when she became the first Indian player, male or female, to score 2000 T20I runs. Talk about pushing boundaries. And tormenting bowlers.
Leading the way
Her performances helped put Indian women’s cricket on the map. In 2005, her consistency led to her appointment as captain of her team. During her time as skipper, she led her team to numerous wins.
She remains the only woman to captain India in more than one ICC ODI World Cup Final, having done so in 2005 and 2017. She also became the first Indian and fifth woman cricketer in the world to cross a staggering 1,000 runs in the World Cup.
She is a specialist in longer formats of the game, and in 2019, she announced her retirement from T20Is to devote her time and efforts into ODI cricket. 2019 also marked the year she completed 20 years in international cricket, becoming the first woman to do so.
Lady Tendulkar is a phenomenon in women’s cricket, in case you still have any doubt. For her contributions to the sport, she has received awards of the highest order. She is the proud recipient of the Wisden Leading Woman Cricketer in the World in 2017. The Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri were conferred to her as well.
The greatest to ever do it
Comparisons to the Master Blaster are not just on a statistical level. Mithali’s batting style and ability are eerily similar to the God of Cricket’s as well. When she bats, she is composed at the crease, and exudes confidence and calm.
Taking runs comes naturally to her, and she has the ability to keep the scoreboard ticking with quick singles and doubles, or step up with fours and sixes when the time comes. This is down to her experience in all three formats of the game.
Her exploits with the bat are devastating, but she also possesses an extra edge with her bowling ability. Her bowling adds depth and variety to India’s attack, and given that she is a leg-spinner, it complements the pace really well. It’s no coincidence that Sachin used to bowl the odd over and bag the odd wicket either.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Mithali Raj is her stardom. She is not just a cricketer, but an inspiration to millions. In a country like India, where cricket is a religion but yet considered a highly male-dominated sport, she became the torchbearer for women who aspired to play the game. She opened the doors for them to pursue their dreams both in cricket and in other sports.
At the age of 19, Mithali stunned the world when she scored 214 runs in a Test match, breaking the highest individual Test score of 209 at the time.
This was her third Test, and it was an achievement that showed the potential and ability of this lady. Nineteen years and countless runs later, she is an all-time great. Not just in women’s cricket, but in the entire history of cricket.
As of today, India and the world salutes Mithali Raj for her contributions to the sport. Over the two decades she has played, she has broken records, shattered perceptions and bulldozed barriers.
She paved the way for many women to play with the bat and the ball and is an inspiration and role model both for up-and-coming women cricketers and general cricket fans.
It also helped that she was the star of the team, and her technical ability and reading of the game were second to none. We tend to celebrate lynchpins in sport, and she was exactly that.
Mithali is a cricketing icon, and we must celebrate her like we celebrate some of our other heroes in the gentlemen’s game. Her legacy is unparalleled, and it will take some doing to match or surpass it.
Player, career and legacy, she ticks all the three boxes, and is a true legend of the game.