Mithali Raj is one of the finest women cricketers to have ever played the game, even if most cricket fans outside India haven’t heard of her yet. A member of the current Indian national team, she has captained the team in every one of its three world cups and has led it to two finals so far (in 2005 and 2013). It’s difficult to find any other woman cricketer with such achievements, which makes Raj an easy choice for India’s greatest captain of all time. Here are 5 reasons why that’s true.
She scores big
She made her international debut at 16, was skipper at 21 and is still going strong at 36. That’s right, we’re talking about none other than Indian cricket legend Mithali Raj—the daughter of a railway employee from Secunderabad, who went on to become one of Indian sport’s most successful women. There have been several icons in Indian cricket over the years but few have had their name written across as many records as she has. In her 21-year-long career so far, she has played 183 ODI matches scoring 6256 runs (avg 32) with 7 hundreds & 39 fifties.
Not one, but two World Cup victories
The ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 and 2013 were two of team India’s most important wins. Without these victories, women’s cricket in India might not have reached its current heights. These wins are also what made Mithali Raj a household name, not just in her home country but all over Asia. Although she had been an integral part of Team India since 2005, these wins catapulted her to becoming one of Indian cricket’s biggest icons.
She knows how to utilize talent
One of her most impressive accomplishments as captain is how she’s made use of a lot of young talent. She handpicked players like Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, and Harmanpreet Kaur, who have all gone on to become some of women’s cricket’s brightest stars. These players are all extremely talented but also very different from each other – which means that in addition to being a top-class player herself, Raj is extremely good at identifying talent. Her coaching will be invaluable to them in years to come.
As a captain, there’s a lot to do: making important decisions, motivating players, keeping everyone happy. The Indian women’s cricket team captain is doing all of that and more for her team. It is well-known that two of Mithali Raj’s biggest strengths are her batting and keeping calm under pressure – but did you know that she has kept her cool as captain as well? There are a few recent examples of how important her leadership skills have been during these moments: when Veda Krishnamurthy scored a half-century on debut against Australia in Sydney; or when Poonam Yadav helped India claw their way back into last year’s World Cup final with some aggressive bowling.
Her play style is unique and exciting
She’s aggressive and ambitious in her style of play, which is rare for women cricketers. She loves to take big risks while batting—at least three times in her career she has scored centuries after coming in as a nightwatchman. She plays without fear, she stays calm under pressure, and she doesn’t shy away from hard work. These are all qualities that make a great captain. She also possesses superb technical skills: A good eye with an excellent temperament to match mean that raj is often able to score at ease against spinners, even when it seems like there’s no way through. What makes her stand out from other captains is not just her talent with a bat but also what she brings to any team on and off the field.
She’s a fighter and strategist as well
If you watch any of India’s matches in recent times, you might have noticed that its captain, Mithali Raj, looks a bit like Wonder Woman. She is tall and physically intimidating – she bowls left-arm orthodox and opens with right-arm off-breaks. But what sets her apart is not just her speed (she can bowl at speeds over 70 mph) or strength (she has an exceptionally strong arm), but also her mental stamina. In fact, when she retires in 2021, it will be as much for want of brain cells as anything else.
She leads by example, breaking stereotypes in Indian cricket.
Not many women in sport have had to face as much scrutiny and criticism as Mithali Raj has. No matter how often she scores big runs, she is still described as an outlier, an exception. And yet, she keeps on breaking records and setting milestones. She’s currently second on two different batting lists: one for being in international cricket for over 15 years and another for most consecutive 50-plus scores by a woman cricketer. At 38, when most players would have retired from international competition (let alone from top flight cricket), Mithali’s milestone-setting hasn’t slowed down a bit.