From Bharatnatyam to becoming India’s most prolific woman cricketer: Mithali Raj on her journey

Mithali Raj, who recently played a match-winning knock against Pakistan in India’s second match at the ICC Women’s WT20, is India’s highest run-getter in T20 internationals and is the fifth highest overall.
India's Mithali Raj during the ICC Women's World Cup fixture at the County Ground, Derby, England. Saturday June 24, 2017. (Nigel French/PA via AP)(AP)
India's Mithali Raj during the ICC Women's World Cup fixture at the County Ground, Derby, England. Saturday June 24, 2017. (Nigel French/PA via AP)(AP)
Updated on Nov 14, 2018 11:04 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondent

India’s most prolific run-getter in international cricket was almost lost to the world of art. Well yes, in an interview given to Mid-Day just before she left for the ICC Women’s WT20, batswoman Mithali Raj confessed that cricket was never her first choice.

“Cricket was never my first choice. I never wanted to be a sportsperson. It just happened. It was destiny. Initially, I was into dance and learnt Bharatnatyam for eight years. I appeared on various TV shows. Cricket happened because my father (Dorai Raj) is an ex-Service man and my brother was a cricketer. He played at the school level. I love sleeping and to inculcate the habit of early rising, my dad forced me to take up a sport. That was the only reason I started playing cricket in the first place. And thereafter it continued,” Raj told Mid-Day in an interview.

Mithali, who recently played a match-winning knock against Pakistan in India’s second match at the ICC Women’s WT20, is India’s highest run-getter in T20 internationals and is the fifth highest overall.

ALSO READ: Mithali Raj now has more runs in T20Is than Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli

She holds the record for the most runs scored by a woman cricket in ODIs with a tally of 6550 runs at a jaw-dropping average of 51.17. Having made her international debut way back in 1999, Mithali said she will continue playing for a couple of more years.

“...I believe I have another year or two before I can hang my boots. I am working extremely hard on my fitness too.

“There was no international tour for two years when I made my India debut in 1999. The likes of Jemimah Rodrigues or Pooja Vastrakar… they have 20 games under their belt. I never had that kind of exposure. If I have to compare a 16-year-old Mithali with the current lot, they would be far ahead in terms of the way they prepare and their professional approach,” Mithali said while talking about the challenges she faced early on in her career.

Talking about the need for sponsors and branding in women’s cricket, Mithali stressed on the need to generate revenue for women’s cricket to grow.

“Unless there is branding, players will not get adequate payment. Why do we want matches to be televised? Why do we want people to turn up for our matches? That’s how you will generate revenue. After the 2017 World Cup, there was a hike in our [central] contracts. We have also seen players signing up for brands. It’s a journey. Even the men’s team, at one point, were not earning as much.”

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Sunday, December 05, 2021