Mithali Raj, the ‘Lady Tendulkar of Indian Women’s Cricket’, brought an end to her 23-year long international cricket career on Wednesday when she announced her retirement from all forms of cricket via a Twitter post.
The 39-year-old cricket icon made her international debut as a 16-year-old against Ireland on June 26, 1999, and scored a century in her first ODI match. She remained unbeaten on 114 and became the youngest cricketer (men and women combined) to score a hundred. And after 23 years, when she ended her playing career, she left as the leading run getter in the 50-over format of the game.
The right-handed batter represented India in 232 ODI matches, which is the highest by any women’s cricketer, and scored the most number of 7805 runs at an average of 50.68. Mithali’s batting average of 50.68 is the fifth highest of all time. The premier batter also scored the highest number of 50+ scores in women’s cricket (71–64 half centuries and 7 hundreds). The Jodhpur-born cricketer also featured in 38 matches for India in the World Cup and scored 1321 runs (2nd most in World Cup history).
At the age of 21 years and 94 days, Mithali was made the Indian captain and has led the Women in Blue in a record number of 155 WODI matches. During her 18-year-long captaincy career, she won 89 matches as Indian skipper. She led India to the finals of the ICC Women’s World Cup in 2005 and 2017, but on both occasions finished as the runners-up.
Raj’s last game in international cricket was against South Africa in Christchurch during the ICC Women’s World Cup earlier this year and in that she scored 68 runs from 84 balls.
Mithali, who holds the record of playing the most consecutive WODI matches (109) for a team, scored seven back-to-back fifties in 2017, which is a record in women’s cricket till date.
Apart from the record number of WODI matches, Mithali also played in 12 Tests and 89 T20I games and holds the record for scoring the most runs for Team India in T20I matches. She has 2364 runs to her name in the shortest format of the game. The veteran retired from the shortest format in September 2019 but continued to play in Test and ODI matches. Her last Test was against Australia last year, which ended in a draw. Overall, in 12 red-ball matches, she scored 699 runs at an average of 43.68, with the highest score of 214.
During her long 22-year-and-274-day career at the top, the 39-year-old cricket legend was awarded with the Khel Ratna Award in 2021, the Arjuna Award in 2003, the Padma Shri in 2015, and the Wisden Leading Women’s Cricketer of the World in 2017.
Mithali’s retirement is an end to the glorious era of women’s cricket in general and not just India. Like the great Sachin Tendulkar, she also played for four decades and created numerous records.