Mithali Raj: India batter retires from international cricket

Mithali Raj celebrating a half-century
Mithali Raj is the current leading run-scorer in women’s ODIs

Legendary India batter Mithali Raj has announced her retirement from international cricket.

The 39-year-old retires as the all-time leading run-scorer in women’s one-day internationals, with 7,805 runs at an average of 50.68.

The right-hander scored 114 not out on her ODI debut against Ireland in 1999 at just 16 years of age.

She remains India’s highest run-scorer in women’s T20 internationals, having retired from the format in 2019.

Raj took over the captaincy in 2005 and is the only India captain, male or female, to have led the side in two World Cup finals.

She announced on Twitter: “The last 23 years have been the most fulfilling, challenging and enjoyable years of my life.

“Each time I stepped on the field, I gave my very best with the intent to help India win.

“I’d love to stay involved with the game I love and contribute to the growth of women’s cricket in India and the world.”

Raj has been the lynchpin of India women’s cricket for more than 20 years, having made more than 300 appearances for her country across all three formats.

While only 12 of those appearances have been Test matches, she was able to register the second-highest individual score of all-time in women’s Tests with 214 against England in 2002 when she was 19.

Raj the record-breaker

As a batter and captain, Raj has broken numerous records during her career.

During the 2017 World Cup, Raj surpassed former England captain Charlotte Edwards as the leading run-scorer in women’s ODIs and became the first woman to reach 6,000 runs in the format.

Later that year she was named Wisden’s Leading Woman Cricketer in the World.

In the same event, she passed 50 in seven consecutive ODI innings, the most in women’s cricket.

She also captained India in a record 155 ODI matches.

Her batting has been prolific, particularly in the 50-over format, where she holds the record for the most scores over 50, with 64 half-centuries and seven centuries.

A tally of 10,868 runs across all three formats makes her the leading-run scorer of all-time in women’s international cricket.

But the one feat that eluded her is a World Cup title for India, having lost to Australia in 2005 and come agonisingly close in 2017 when they were beaten by England at Lord’s by just nine runs.

Legacy

In 2017, Raj was named in the BBC’s list of 100 influential and innovative women from around the world, consisting of figures who were tackling some of the biggest problems facing women.

A biopic about her life called Shabaash Mithu is due to be released in July, focusing on her life and journey within women’s cricket and her impact upon the game.

“It will inspire a lot of young girls who dream about becoming a cricketer,” she said of the filmexternal-link.

“Many young girls have the urge to play the sport but never get to see it on television. This will open a lot of opportunities for them to dream.”

In her retirement statement, Raj spoke of her desire to stay involved in the game and grow cricket around the world.

“I declare that I will scout and train as many young girls as possible to take up this wonderful sport,” she said at an ICC event for International Women’s Day in March. external-link

Who next for India?

Harmanpreet Kaur (left) and Mithali Raj (right) batting together
Harmanpreet Kaur (left) replaced Mithali Raj as T20 captain in 2019

Harmanpreet Kaur is the likely candidate to take over the captaincy, having fulfilled the role in the T20 format when Raj retired in 2019 in order to focus on the 2022 World Cup.

Kaur stood in as captain when Raj was controversially dropped from the T20 side during the 2018 World Cup in the Caribbean, which led to a fallout between Raj and coach Ramesh Powar. She has also led the side on occasion when Raj had been missing through injury.

While India will miss her experience and solidity as a batter, as she was regarded as a more traditional and technical player, Raj leaves the side in an exciting position with promising young players like Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues and Shafali Verma already making their mark in international cricket.

‘An inspiration to millions’ – reaction

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