As the ICC Women’s World Cup begins today, the women in blue are participating in the trophy under the leadership of Mithali Raj.
All eyes are on Mithali Dorai Raj, the 34-year-old veteran all-rounder, as she leads India's Women in Blue in their opening encounter against hosts England at the Country Ground in Derby in the ICC Women’s World Cup starting today.
Honoured with the Arjuna Award in 2003 and the Padma Shri in 2015, Mithali is often called the ‘Sachin Tendulkar’ of women’s cricket. Needless to say, she is not only India’s finest female cricketer but also one of the best in the world.
Her tremendous record as a cricketer and past credentials -- she is the second highest run-scorer in women's international cricket and the second woman cricketer to reach the 5,500-run mark -- is fuelling expectations of a maiden trophy win.
While girls her age were dressing up their dolls, Mithali played her first match when she was just 11. Her parents, Indian Air Force officer Dorai Raj and Leela Raj, hailing from Tamil Tadu, nurtured her dreams at a very young age; she joined the league at the age of 17.
In her debut match in 1999, Mithali scored an unbeaten 114 against Ireland at Milton Keynes. An alumnus of St. Johns School, Hyderabad, Mithali practised the game at Keynes Girls High School, Secunderabad.
Known for her calm demeanour, Mithali is a part-time leg-break bowler and carries the tag of an all-rounder. Ever since her One Day International debut in 1999, she has been one of the most sought after faces in the world of women’s cricket.
Making her Test debut in 2002 against South Africa in Lucknow at the age of 19, she smashed a record 214 runs to go past the previous world record of Karen Rolton for the highest individual Test score. But in 2004, Pakistan’s Kiran Baluch broke Mithali’s record.
Ranked world number one in the ODI chart of women cricketers, Mithali in the 2013 Women's World Cup, Mithali scored one 100 and one 50.
She was ranked fourth in Test cricket, scoring five centuries and an equal number of 50s. In February 2017, she became the second player to reach 5,500 runs in ODIs during Women's World Cup qualifiers. The record is held by Charlotte Edward with 5,992 runs.
In 2005, she led the Women in Blue to their first World Cup final. Though India lost in the final, the team came to be taken seriously by the country. In August 2006, without losing a single match, she led the team to their first ever Test series victory over England. The team then went on to win the Asia Cup.
Currently, she is ranked fourth in the ICC ranking for batting. Commenting on the ICC ranking, she is quoted in an official report as saying,
I am happy to know that the ICC has launched the ICC Women’s Team Rankings. There will now be added context when the sides play in bilateral series as victories will not only edge teams closer to the ICC Women’s World Cup but will also be rewarded in terms of improvement in rankings. For India, the aim is simple and straight – qualify for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 and, in the meantime, top the rankings. It will be challenging but not impossible, and if we continue to work hard, I don’t see why we can’t achieve these objectives.
Women in Blue are one of the eight teams competing in the ICC Women’s Championship. The Indian women's team debuted in Test cricket in 1976, against the West Indies and played its first ODI in the 1978 World Cup.
This is the eighth time that the Indian contingent is participating in the Women’s World Cup. With a world ranking of 4, the team is governed by the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India)
Also read: India’s oft-forgotten Women in Blue
The squad boasts an impressive line-up of batswomen including Mansi Joshi, Thirush Kamini, Harmanpreet Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy, Mona Meshram, Shikha Pandey, Poonam Yadav, Deepti Sharma, Devika Vaidya, Soni Yadav and wicketkeeper Sushma Verma. Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad are the two specialist bowlers.
After the loss in the ICC Champions Trophy final against Pakistan, all eyes are on the Women in Blue under Mithali’s leadership to keep the Indian flag flying high.