Batswoman Mithali Raj retires from T20 Internationals

Leading Indian batswoman Mithali Raj has announced retirement from T20 Internationals. She led India in 32 T20Is India including 3 Women’s T20 World Cups in 2012 (Sri Lanka), 2014 (Bangladesh) and 2016 (India), media reports said.

Mithali Raj was captain when India played their first ever women’s T20 International in Derby in 2006. In 89 T20 Internationals, Mithali scored 2364 runs including 17 fifties with a career-best 97 not out.

Mithali Raj played her last T20I against England on March 9, 2019 and remained unbeaten on 30 off 32 balls.

“After representing India in T20 internationals since 2006, I wish to retire from T20Is to focus my energies on readying myself for the 2021 One Day World Cup. It remains my dream to win a World Cup for my country and I want to give it my best. I thank the BCCI for their continuous support and wish the Indian T20 team good luck as they prepare for the home series against South Africa Women,” Mithali Raj was quoted saying in a press release issued by BCCI.

Only recently, MIthali Raj had said she would be available for the T20I series against South Africa, starting September 24. The selectors were scheduled ot meet on September 5 to pick the India women’s squad for the 5-match series in Surat.

However, Mithali Raj had said she wasn’t sure about her participation in next year’s T20 World Cup to be held between February 21 and March 8 in Australia.

A major controversy broke in November 2018 when Mithali Raj left out of the World T20 semi-final against England. India went on to lose and reports emerged of a rift between Mithali Raj and India’s current T20I skipper Harmanpreet Kaur.

Mithali was also excluded from Indian women’s next T20 International against New Zealand in Wellington in February. Harmanpreet Kaur had explained the decision and said the idea was to give younger girls more opportunity.

“We are looking to give chance to the young girls. We only have these 3 overseas games and then we are playing more in Indian conditions. That’s the reason we are giving chances to the young girls,” Kaur had said after India’s 23-run defeat.

Born on December 3, 1982, Mithali is often regarded as one of the greatest batswomen to have ever played the game. She is the highest run-scorer in women’s international cricket and the only female cricketer to surpass the 6,000 run mark in WODIs.

She is the first player to score seven consecutive 50s in ODIs. Raj also holds the record for most half-centuries in WODIs. In June 2018 during the 2018 Women’s Twenty20 Asia Cup, she became the first player from India (either male or female) to score 2000 runs in T20Is, and also became the first woman cricketer to reach 2002 WT20I runs.

Raj is the only player (male or female) to have captained India in more than one ICC ODI World Cup final, doing so twice in 2005 and 2017. On 1 February 2019, during India’s series against New Zealand Women, Raj became the first woman to play in 200 ODI matches.

In September 2019, she announced her retirement from T20Is to focus on ODI cricket.

Mithali Raj was born in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Her father is Dorai Raj, who was an Airman (Warrant Officer) in the Indian Air Force, and mother is Leela Raj. She is from a Tamil family. Raj started to play the game at age of 10 and at the age of 17, she was picked for the Indian team. She lives in Hyderabad, Telangana. She attended Keyes High School for Girls in Secunderabad. She attended Kasturba Gandhi Junior College for Women in West Marredpally (Secunderabad) for her intermediate studies. She started cricket coaching in her school days along with her elder brother. She practised at school, often playing with male cricketers in the nets.

Raj has played both Test and One Day International cricket for India’s women’s cricket team. She was named among the probables in the 1997 Women’s Cricket World Cup when she was just 14, but couldn’t make it to the final squad. She made her One Day International debut in 1999 against Ireland at Milton Keynes and scored unbeaten 114 runs. She made her Test debut in the 2001–02 season against South Africa at Lucknow. On 17 August 2002, at the age of 19, in her third Test, she broke Karen Rolton’s record of world’s highest individual Test score of 209*, scoring a new high of 214 against England in the second and final Test at County Ground, Taunton. The record has since been surpassed by Kiran Baluch of Pakistan who scored 242 against West Indies in March 2004.

Raj was ill with a strain of typhoid during the CricInfo Women’s World Cup in 2002, seriously hampering India’s progress. However, she then led them to their first World Cup final in 2005, in South Africa, where they met Australia who proved too strong. In August 2006, she led the side to their first ever Test and Series victory in England and wrapped up the year winning the Asia Cup – the second time in 12 months – without dropping a single game.

She led the Indian team to the finals in the 2005 Women’s Cricket World Cup where the team lost to Australia. She is a part-time leg-break bowler as well. She is a recipient of the Arjuna award for the year 2003. She currently tops the batting table with 703 ratings. Her composure when at the crease and ability to score briskly make her a dangerous cricketer. In addition to her ability with the bat, Raj rolls her arm over bowling leg-spinners and providing variety to the attack.

At the 2013 Women’s World Cup, Raj was the No.1 Cricketer in the ODI chart among women. She scored 100s: 1 and 50s: 4 in Test cricket, 100s: 5 and 50s: 50 with best bowling of 3/4 in ODIs and 50s: 10 in T20s.

In February 2017, she became the second player to score 5,500 runs in WODIs. Raj is the first player to captain most matches for India in ODI and T20I.

In July 2017, she became the first player to score 6,000 runs in WODIs. She led the Indian team to the final of the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup where the team lost to England by nine runs.

In December 2017, she was named as one of the players in the ICC Women’s ODI Team of the Year.

In October 2018, she was named in India’s squad for the 2018 ICC Women’s World Twenty20 tournament in the West Indies.

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