Friday, June 10, 2022

Mithali Raj has announced her retirement from international cricket in India (Read more)

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Raj has been the lynchpin of India women's cricket for more than 20 years . I set out as a little girl on the journey to wear the India blues as representing your country is the highest honour," the 39-year-old Raj wrote on social media as she announced her retirement.

  • Great Raj retires from International 

"The journey was full of highs and some lows. Each event taught me something unique and the last 23 years have been the most fulfilling, challenging and enjoyable years of my life."

Discipline has been the bedrock of her longevity and it is strange to learn that Raj was introduced to the sport because she was too lazy.

To make sure she didn't develop the habit of sleeping in till late, Dorai Raj, who was in the Indian Air Force, would make his daughter accompany her brother to cricket training at the John's Cricket Academy, Secunderabad.

At India 333 times across all formats, scored a world record 10,868 runs and became the first Indian captain to lead the country to two World Cup finals.

But the legacy she leaves behind goes well beyond mere numbers. The first woman to make it big in a predominantly male sport, she helped girls across the country nurture a dream.

While she would spend most of her time sitting by the boundary and completing her homework, Raj would at times pick up a bat and start knocking around.

A coach at the Academy, Jyothi Prasad, was impressed by her technique and referred her to Sampath Kumar.

A positive appraisal from Kumar, who coached about two women's teams in Secunderabad then, set the wheels in motion. Even though her passion was Indian classical dance, Raj started on a journey her parents chose for her.

Her cricket training began at four in the morning and could sometimes consume six hours of her day. A batting purist, Kumar would make Raj practice batting in the narrow corridors of her school and make her bat with a stump to make sure she was middling the ball.

 Raj explained in an interview to Cricket Monthly in September 2016. She didn't have time to attend family functions and was discouraged by her grandparents for pursuing what was a "boys' sport" back then.

For more than 20 years, Raj was the face and voice of Indian women's cricket.

Most of the players in the current team grew up watching her, idolising her. Not only for her batting exploits, but also for her gumption.

At her own time , During her tenure, the sport has taken significant strides. The Board of Control for Cricket in India, the richest cricket federation in the world, brought women's cricket under its flag only in 2005. It wasn't until 2016 that female cricketers were given central contracts.

But it wasn't until 2017, when India made another World Cup final under Raj's captaincy that the country truly woke up to the exploits of its women's cricket team.

The matches were televised and India was hooked onto its favourite pastime all over again. India lost to England by nine runs at Lord's in the 2017 final, but they won over hearts.

She was an honour to have led the team for so many years," Raj wrote on Wednesday. "It definitely shaped me as a person and hopefully helped shape Indian women's cricket as well."

She switched game forever 

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