“She is a girl. Why are you putting her into a sport that is so rough? She will play with boys, will get tanned,”
These were the echoes of illogic thrown at a young Mithali Raj and her family when her interest in taking up cricket as her progression triggered in. A lazy child of a disciplined ex-serviceman, Mithali was dragged to her brother’s cricket practise by her father, where some casual strokes by her caught the eye of a coach, who was wowed by her natural ability to hit the ball.
This early spotting at a coaching centre in Secundrabad turned into a staggering passion, as Mithali began by playing with stars like Anjum Chopra and Anju Jain for Air India.
Making her ODI debut 21 years ago, it just took her her third test to break the record of the World’s highest individual test score in 2002, smashing a blazing 214 against England in Taunton. Never looking back since, she has led the Indian team to a host of victories, and is a recipient of the Arjuna Award for 2003 and a Padma Shri for 2015.
Once on being asked to name her favourite male cricketer, she was quick to ask the reporter if he would have ever asked the same question to a male cricket player, being a proud advocate for promoting the growth of women’s cricket. She has forever been vocal about the comparisons between male and female cricket, as well as her criticism of being referred to as “The Lady Sachin Tendulkar”.
The highest run scorer of all time in all three formats in Women’s cricket, Mithali dreams to lead her team to victory in the World Cup in 2021, and her journey has been a compelling one, from a sleepy child to a budding Bharatnatyam dancer to a disciplined Captain, Raj has seen it all, truly standing up to her surname, meaning a leader.