We are indeed in interesting times in Indian cricket. The Sachin’s, Dravid’s, Kumble’s have all gone. The likes of Kohli, Rohit, Bumrah, Pandya make India arguably Asia’s fiercest cricketing power. The women’s game, in its biggest gain, through the flair of the likes of Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodriguez continues to walk closer toward realising its comprehensive dream of a ‘nation-wide’ acceptance.
And yet, at some closed end, away from the tizzy of fanfare, her head buried into a contest- Mithali Raj continues to contribute to the sport.
Mithali Raj’s feat personifies greatness ahead of gender-gap in Cricket
Ever-calm, ever-reluctant to soak up the attention that keeps coming her way- Cricket relishes in this Rumi-reader the moving focus similar to the great, timeless connoisseur of words.
Only a few hours back did it became apparent that Mithali Raj contributed a new ornament to the sport. This time she handed a prized ornament through which Indian Cricket- regardless of gender- can bejewel itself. Not Virat Kohli, not MS Dhoni, and not Smriti Mandhana either.
It’s Mithali Raj who’s become the first-ever Indian cricketer to cross 2000 T20 runs. Contributing 23 runs to India’s successful run-chase of a modest 107 set by Sri Lanka in Asia Cup 2018, Mithali reached an interesting new summit. And in the process, erased boundaries of a distinction between genders in the annals of Indian cricket.
A stylist who lends class to batting
Quite simply because she owns the great feat at being the first ever Indian cricketer to storm past 2000 T20 runs, an interesting timely achievement speaking of sheer competence whilst the ICC Women’s World’s T20 is just some months away.
A thoughtful, cautious cricketer who prefers to accumulate runs, consistently so, instead of resting of wild slogs and big heaves- Mithali blends a studiousness with an elegance that few others have managed so far.
This is a watershed moment in a sport where increasingly cricketing maps world-over are being defined by T20s.
Mithali’s landmark achievement serves reason to believe that collecting runs in 20-over cricket isn’t only determined by the flair and dexterity of white-ball smasher. It proves that someone who might take a bit of time to settle in but specializes in the brisk conversion of runs can go a long way.
Mithali against the best
Mithali first wielded the bat in T20 cricket way back in 2006 against England women’s, facing an attack that boasted Jenny Gunn, Katherine Brunt and, Charlotte Edwards. The rest, as they say, is history. And given her current form, where only a week ago, Raj hurled Malay bowlers all round in the ongoing Asia Cup 2018 on way to her 97 not out, it seems her form is irrepressible and her determination to collect runs- dogged.
Why Mithali Raj’s feat must be celebrated is that she’s achieved the feat of scoring 2000 T20 runs from just 74 innings, including 14 fifties. Interestingly, among her noted contemporaries, Meg Lanning sits over 2100 T20 runs from as many innings. This is when the likes of Suzie Bates and Stafanie Taylor sit well over 2500 T20 runs, but with more T20 appearances under their guard than these two.
Why Mithali Raj matters
At a time where the presence of a Smriti Mandhana and her impact from the top order is vital to lending thrust to Indian batting, with the likes of Harmanpreet coming in later for fireworks, Mithali’s presence bridges the gap between exuberance and experience and infuses a stability that T20 often balances its weight over. Even as her bat suffered a temporary loss of sheen in the T20 tri-series including Australia and England, Mithali’s current consistency brings respite from obscurity that often challenges the side on surprise occasions.