Indian women's cricket legend Mithali Raj calls it a day
Mumbai, June 8, 2022
India's greatest woman batter, Mithali Raj, capped her illustrious 23-year-long professional career by announcing her retirement from international cricket on Wednesday, stating that the journey had been "most fulfilling".
Mithali, who arrived on the international scene by smashing 114 on debut at the age of 16, soon established herself as the mainstay of India batting. She went on to lead the side for most part of her illustrious career that also saw her captain the national side to two 50-over World Cup finals -- the only one to do so in India, male or female.
Mithali, 39, announced her retirement on social media, posting a letter on Twitter, which traced her more than two-decade-long journey.
"I set out as a little girl on the journey to wear the India blues, as representing your country is the highest honour. 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," wrote Mithali, the highest run-getter in ODI cricket, having scored 7,805 runs in 232 games at an average of 50.68.
Mithali's consistency was legendary as she ended up scoring seven ODI centuries, and a mind-boggling 64 half-tons in a career which had just seven ducks.
Legendary England cricketer Charlotte Edwards came a distant second to Mithali, with her nearly two-decade-long career fetching her 5,992 runs from 191 games at an average of 38.16.
Mithali did not let age come in the way as she continued to strive for the World Cup, but unfortunately her last campaign -- in New Zealand this year -- ended in India's premature exit. There was speculation that Mithali would announce her retirement on return from New Zealand, but she preferred to delay it and finally called it quits on the eve of the big-ticket men's T20I series between the KL Rahul-led India and South Africa.
"Like all journeys, this one too must come to an end. Today is the day I retire from all forms of international cricket. Each time I stepped on the field, I gave my very best with the intent to help India win. I will always cherish the opportunity given to me to represent the tricolour," she said.
Mithali also scored 2,364 runs in 89 T20Is, as well as 699 runs in 12 Tests, including a century and four half-centuries. She also finishes as the No. 7-ranked batter in the ICC Women's ODI Player Rankings.
"I feel now is the perfect time to call curtains on my playing career as the team is in the capable hands of some very talented young players and the future of Indian cricket is bright," she said.
"I'd like to thank the BCCI and Shri Jay Shah Sir (Honorary Secretary, BCCI} for all the support I have received -- first as a player and then as the captain of the Indian women's cricket team," added Mithali in her letter.
It was during the 2017 ODI World Cup that Mithali surpassed Edwards to become the highest run-scorer in ODIs and the first woman cricketer to score 6,000 runs in the format.
Mithali hinted that she would perhaps be open to coaching assignments or whatever role the Indian cricket board deemed suitable for a player of her calibre.
"It was an honour to have led the team for so many years. It definitely shaped me as a person and hopefully helped shape Indian women's cricket as well. This journey may have ended but another one beckons as I'd love to stay involved in the game I love and contribute to the growth of women's cricket in India and world over.
"Special mention to all my fans, thank you for all your love and support," she said.
Mithali, who captained India to the final of the ICC Women's World Cup 2017, also holds the record for the most matches (28 matches) captained in Women's World Cups, breaking Australian legend Belinda Clark's record during the ICC Women's World Cup 2022 in March.
She also led India to four consecutive Asia Cup triumphs -- 2005-06, 2006-07, 2008, 2012. However, perhaps, Mithali's most significant achievement as captain came in 2014 as India sealed a historic Test series victory in England, with Mithali guiding the team home with an unbeaten 50 in the second innings.
As a skipper, Mithali has 89 wins out of 155 - the most by any player in women's ODIs. Her 155 matches as captain are also the highest in women's ODIs.
The batter also became the second youngest centurion after she scored a century on ODI debut in 1999. At 16 years and 205 days, she became the youngest centurion in women's internationals. The record was only broken 22 years later in 2021, when Ireland's Amy Hunter achieved that feat on her 16th birthday.
The veteran has also most runs in a series by a captain. In the 2014-17 ICC Women's Championship, Mithali scored 535 runs in 17 matches, the most by an India captain in an ODI series.
Mithali also played most matches (232) and hit most fifties (64) in women's internationals ODIs. Mithali is also the only Indian woman to score a double century in Tests. Her score of 214 (v England in 2002) is the second-highest individual score in women's Tests.