There have been thousands of cricketers in the pages from the past. Umpteenth have made their mark. Players have enjoyed the love from the game but there are few who have taken the game to new avenues. One of the biggest names in Indian cricket has been Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
The game grew because of him. On the other side, we are fortunate to be witnessing women’s cricket reaching new streets on the shoulders of legends who still play for the national side. The biggest name that strikes the mind is Mithali Raj. She is the personification of a leader and skipper in female cricket. She is the first woman to play 200 one day internationals and one of the few to reach this mark.
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Her batting brilliance has made her stand apart from others. Her batsmanship can be understood best in the numbers that tell that she is the highest run-scorer in one-day internationals for women’s cricket. Her international career speaks volumes of her dedication and passion for the game. She has a glorious career of more than 20 years which is only lesser than Sachin, Miandad, and Jayasuriya.
Let us recall her top five innings which made her shine and are surely part of her long and illustrated career.
114* V Ireland
This century came in 1999 against the Irish team. She made her debut on the tour and made her mark in a first way. She was sent to open the inning with another debutant. It was the day of debutants as they smashed an opening stand of 258 runs. Mithali announced her entry onto the international arena with a blistering 114 unbeaten. The spectators had sensed that Mithali was there to stay. Interestingly, she also became the youngest female cricketer to enjoy a ton. Not a lot of people know that Raj thought she was playing an unofficial game, but it turned out to be her official grand entry.
91* V New Zealand
It was in 2005 that Mithali’s favorite knock came. The team needed her more than ever and it was the chance for Indian women to make their way into their maiden world cup finals. She was the skipper and was called upon the crease to lead the side from front. Although, she was suffering from a bad knee injury, her spirit was higher than ever. India was 38/2 in overcast conditions. She built a steady partnership with Anjum Chopra and added 68 in 18.4 overs without lofting the ball much. Raj, then, played swiftly alongside the middle order and took India to a competitive total of 204. She was sitting out with a swollen injury to see her side clinch the historical match comfortably.
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69* V South Africa
In 2000, Mithali was consistent in domestic contests and was considered one of the key Indian players for the world cup. She proved the reliance right in the first match against South Africa. Against a good South African attack, she made a half-century which complemented the Indian spinners. India was chasing 129 and 69 came from the bat of Mithali Raj. Her knock had 11 marvelous boundaries. More importantly, she played crucial knocks for the team in upcoming matches and her absence was rightly and significantly felt.
103* V Pakistan
It was 2013 women’s cricket world cup and India were playing at home. India had disappointed fans and were out of the competition in the group stages. It was the seventh place-play-off match against Pakistan that gave India and skipper Mithali the only option to silent all criticisms for a while. Indian team were chasing 193 on a ground where no other team had chased above 105. Mithali, however, had other plans. She made a ton to help India secure a six-wicket win. No other player from India could reach 30 run mark. Cuttack witnessed Mithali pulling up her socks.
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109* V New Zealand
In recent memories, 2017 had a big knock from Mithali in Derby. India were playing New Zealand in a virtual quarter-final and they needed a win to qualify into semis. Mithali smashed an incredible 109 to take her side to 265. She built a steady partnership with Harmanpreet and played swiftly alongside Veda. She was ticking balls for singles and kept the scorecard busy. The Indian bowlers responded to her knock by getting the game by 186 runs.
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This article was published first on Female Cricket. The views expressed are the author’s own.