As Mithali Raj walked today into the Seddon Park for the toss as the captain of the Indian cricket team ahead of the third ODI in Hamilton, she created history once again, becoming the first woman to play 200 ODIs.
Adding another feat to an already decorated career, Raj's spot in the ICC Hall of Fame is a no-brainer.February 1, 2019
At the age of 36, if she was asked what career-path would she want to pursue, she would certainly choose that of a cricketer, but a 9-year-old Raj would have said that she wanted to pursue a career in dance.
Unlike a lot of aspiring cricketers, Mithali Raj was never one to have sleepless nights fantasizing about donning that blue kit and representing India on an international level. In fact, as a child, Raj had no plans to join the sport which is so famously known as a 'gentleman's game'.
The skipper has made it absolutely clear that the only reason she took to cricket was because her father, Dorai Raj forced her to play cricket just because she was extremely lazy and her dad wanted her to be more active, which had no impact on her lifestyle whatsoever as she continues to be equally lazy (her words, not ours).
“My dad made a decision to turn me into a professional cricketer. The hours of training sessions and the performance in the game… these are the things that started too early for me as an 11-year-old,” Raj shares in an interview with the ICC. “At that phase when I started putting so many hours in the game, I really realised that… I have stopped enjoying the game and at some point, I hated my dad for putting me into the sport.”
Ever since she made her ODI debut on 25th June 1995, she's had multiple spells as the captain of the Indian women's cricket team, the first one coming just before the 2005 World Cup. The young batswoman was nervous to shoulder the responsibility one because it was during the biggest tournament of all and two, because a lot of senior players and even an ex-captain was in the team, which now belonged to her. But that was probably the only instance Mithali truly shook in her boots.
With a résumé with 20 years-worth of experience, the Indian skipper has no more jitters to confront. While most players indulge in boosting their morale before going out to bat, the veteran can be calmly reading a book with her kit on. “I am the senior-most player in the team. I am a more mature leader and I have no apprehensions any more,” she said in an interview with the Times of India.
Mithali Raj is probably one of the wisest sportspersons of our generation who, despite facing so much of criticism as a player, a teammate, and even for just being herself, continues to do her thing without caring about what the world has to say.
She has turned something that she used to completely despise, into something which helped her make a mark for herself and become one of best, and that is something every young athlete must try and imbibe.