The name that doesn’t require any introduction. The name that makes India feel proud. This name and fame was not an overnight victory for her. It was all the game of fate and destiny. A reluctant cricketer to start with, nothing could stop Mithali to become the Indian Women Cricket’s biggest role model.
“I was forced into something I didn’t like”.
This is what Mithali says about cricket. It is strange to hear that the girl who grew up hating cricket is now the captain of the Indian Women’s cricket team and the face of the neglected arm of BCCI. Today, her dedication towards the sport is the main reason for the world-wide popularity of the Indian Women’s Cricket Team.
Getting into the flashback, Mithali Dorai Raj, fondly called by her family and friends as ‘Mithu’, was born on 3 December 1982 in Jodhpur to Dorai Raj and Leela Raj. She was also called as’ Sona’ by her mother. Though her mother tongue is Tamil, since her father was an Airman in the Indian Air Force and later joined the Andhra Bank, they had settled in Hyderabad, Telangana.
Mithali’s mom wanted her to be moulded as a daring and dashing woman. So, she started her work of moulding Mithali when she was just 6 years old. She made her join the Piano and Bharatanatyam classes. She had implemented a very strict time table for her, where she had to follow her routine very strictly from 7 am to 8 pm. She was very good at dance and was keen on becoming a classical dancer. She has practiced Bharatanatyam for eight long years, but later she had to quit it to pursue her cricket career.
The late riser
According to her father, Mithali was a late riser. To get her into the habit of rising early, he started taking her to the cricket camp along with her brother, Mithun, at the age of 10. Her father rode both of them to St. John’s Cricket Academy grounds in Secunderabad at 4 am. Sometimes she wished she was her grand parents’ age, since that would ensure that she, like them, would get undisturbed morning sleep. The late riser eventually turned out to be more promising than her brother. Her father’s friend, Jyothi Prasad spotted her talent and told him to concentrate on his daughter instead of his son. That’s how her cricket journey started. But her passion towards dance still existed.
The talent spotted
Jyothi Prasad referred Mithali to Sampath Kumar, who was very strict but extremely good. Once coach Kumar took her under his wing, she had no time even to think of mastering the mudras of dance. After a year under his training, he told Dorai that Mithali was not only going to play for India but also break many records. She received complete support from her parents. She used to be there in the ground before sunrise and bat for two hours at a stretch. After that, she would have breakfast at the ground and change at the ground for school. After school hours, she again attended the training and managed to spend an hour on her school lessons and go to bed at 8 pm. She has undergone a vigorous practice under Coach Kumar.
The Successful Captain
By the time she was 14, her name was included in the probables for the 1997 World Cup. But due to her very young age, the selectors were not sure of blooding her. She made her ODI debut in 1999 against Ireland and scored her first century. In her third test, she broke Karen Rolton’s record of world’s highest individual test score of 209, by scoring 214. In 2005, she led the team to their first World Cup final. In August 2006, she led them to their first ever Test and series victory and wrapped up the year winning the Asia Cup without dropping a single game. At 2013 Women’s World Cup, Mithali starred as the No.1 Cricketer in the ODI chart among women.
Awards and Rewards
During the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup, Raj scored her seventh consecutive half-century and made a record for most consecutive fifties by a player. She has been awarded with Arjuna Award by the Government of India and Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award. Most recently, she has put all her efforts in leading India towards winning the World Cup Championship. Unfortunately, India had to end up as runners. But, keeping confidence in her and as an appreciation to her leadership qualities, ICC has appointed Mithali as the captain for Indian Women’s team for the 2017 World Cup.
So the life journey of Mithali is the transition of her nickname from “Mithu” to “Tendulkar of Indian Women’s Cricket”. Cricket may have happened by chance after a brush with dance, but today Mithali stands as an inspiration for all the women in India. Her story is an eye-opening for everyone to prove that women are in no way lesser than men.