Home > Features >

BCCI, spare a thought for Mithali Raj and her unsung team

Mithali Raj took India home © Getty Images
Mithali Raj took India home against England © Getty Images

With India Women resuming play in the longer version, Mithali Raj, their quintessential mainstay, masterminded them to a victory at Wormsley. Abhishek Mukherjee relives a woman’s journey in a cricket-crazy country where The Board of Control For Cricket (BCCI) has often ignored the need to encourage growth of women’s cricket.

Mithali Raj is 31, and already a veteran of 12 years in international cricket; take men like Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, and Harbhajan Singh, who are out of the international reckoning, and she has the longest career among current Indian cricketers across genders. Her career reads a mere nine Tests; and the one-off Test against England Women at Wormsley was the first time she has played the longer version since 2006.

Exactly why the Indian Women do not play more Tests is an enigma. Consider Mithali, for example: her career tally reads 626 runs at 52.16 (sixth in the history of women’s test history with a 500-run cut-off and best among Indians with a 500-run cut-off and best among Indians). In the last Women’s Test, she had played, (which was also India Women’s last Test before the one at Wormsley) she scored 65 and 22 not out before Jhulan Goswami, the tireless spearhead of the Indian attack, had routed the hosts with five for 33 and five for 45 at Taunton.

But then, that was not enough, for some baffling reason. Six out of nine Tests Mithali, played have been an only Test. The men, on the other hand, have played nine Tests only in England in the past three years, winning one and losing six (and on the verge of losing a seventh).

The women, on the other hand, have played three Tests on English soil since Mithali’s debut, have won two and drawn two on English soil; they have also won their only Test in South Africa during this period — and had been denied a Test; and when they were finally allowed, it was not telecast, and fans back home had to rely on BBC live commentary. That has been the kind of discrimination dished out to India Women.

But that has never affected Mithali; if it has been a matter of grievance, it has certainly not reflected in her batting; she has come a long way from the baby-faced 19-year old who had smashed Karen Rolton’s record of 209 not out to set a new world record of 214 (Kiran Baluch, 242, is the only one to have scored more).

She is now a veteran, as is Jhulan Goswami, whose nine Tests have fetched her 38 wickets at 16.00; she played her part at Wormsley with four for 48 in England Women’s second innings to go with her one for 20 in the first. Karuna “Karu” Jain, India’s other “senior” (they had eight debutants), did her bit as well, with four catches behind the stumps.

Jhulan was the second female cricketer to be nominated for Padma Shri after Diana Edulji; Mithali’s overdue recognition came during the Wormsley Test (a year after Anjum Chopra). Virat Kohli has been nominated along with Mithali: it had taken Kohli a year to play his ninth Test.

But Mithali is more than that. While Diana was an icon of the era, Jhulan has been the tearaway who ran through sides with ease, and Anjum the blue-eyed favourite, Mithali had carved out a niche of her own: with her performances on field and dignity off it, she has, in a way, been the face of the Indian Women’s team, and more.

If these had aggrieved Mithali, it did not show in her batting. She marshalled her troops, especially debutant Niranjana Nagarajan, as England Women folded for 92; she failed with the bat, but her team managed a 22-run lead, which was eradicated with the loss of a single wicket.

But Mithali kept patience. She rotated her bowlers around. She used Jhulan with care, and as her spearhead kept on denting the English line-up, she found assistance from the other end as well; Ekta Bisht played the perfect foil with a long spell, and India Women were eventually left to score 181; Shubhalakshmi Sharma, having dislocated her shoulder, was unlikely to bat.

Up stepped the debutants Thirush Kamini and Smriti Mandhana, putting up 76 for the opening stand; Mithali found herself at the crease at 82 for two, and some excellent bowling from Kate Cross saw India Women finish the day on 119 for four; Mithali was on a 69-ball 20, and the onus was on her; Shikha Pandey, after all, was making her debut.

They kept coming at her, the English bowlers: runs dried up; fielders moved closer and closer; she did not edge, so they took the slip away; she cut and steered the ball very late, deftly, to third-man; they brought the slip back; Mithali kept piercing the newly opened gap.

The pitch suddenly seemed to have lost its demons. The attention of the fans shifted from The Oval to Wormsley and from television channels to the internet and radio. Mithali kept scoring. They tempted her, but she merely defended or drove them in gaps and picked up singles. She knew she had to be there till the end. She did not go for the big shots. Runs came in a trickle, but they came.

The English shoulders started dropping. Mithali drove in the gap — this time for four — but kept strike with a single. A single next over brought up her fifty; and Shikha finished off things with a boundary off Natalie Sciver to finish things off. As the Indians swamped the ground in joy, the captain flashed a smile of satisfaction: not only had she managed to defeat the English with a bunch of rookies, but had also managed to send a silent message to The Board.

Take the hint, BCCI. It is about time.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter  here.)

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 30, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 2, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Cuttack

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 3, 2014 (09:00 IST)   at Khulna

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 5, 2014 (14:05 IST)   at Adelaide

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 6, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Ahmedabad

More

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Nov 15, 2014  at Ahmedabad

Match cancelled

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Nov 7, 2014  at Bengaluru

Match cancelled

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 30, 2014  at Hyderabad

Match cancelled

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 27, 2014  at Hamilton

No result

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 3 wkts

Photos

Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test: Australia's practice session

Videos

Tendulkar provides teaser on upcoming book

Rohit Sharma gave a fantastic account of himself: Sanjay Bangar

Yuvraj Singh flays media for twisting statements on future in international cricket

India A beat Sri Lanka by 88 runs in tour match; Rohit Sharma, Manish Pandey, Karn Sharma shine

Kevin Pietersen saga: Stuart Broad, James Anderson saddened by bullying claims

India vs Sri Lanka 2014: Rohit Sharma or Ajinkya Rahane — who should open for India?

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 Central Zone Duleep Trophy Duleep Trophy 2014-15 India Pakistan Pakistan vs Australia Pakistan vs Australia 2014 South Zone South Zone vs Central Zone Sri Lanka Sri Lanka tour of India 2014

West Indies crisis: Trinidad and Tobago condemns West Indies’ pullout from India tour

MS Dhoni told me there’s nothing called ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’: Pankaj Singh

All-India PSU T20 Tournament: Oriental Insurance defeat HPCL

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in favour of Najam Sethi as ICC President

Justice Mudgal Committee report on IPL spot-fixing to be submitted on November 3

Mythbusting — the claim that playing for a weaker batting side handicaps a batsman has no basis

Younis Khan’s ban: why the ICC is justified

KL Rahul could be opening option for India’s tour to Australia

Highest identical scores in both innings of a Test

Younis Khan — perhaps Pakistan’s greatest batsman ever

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

678 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Younis Khan century during Pakistan vs Australia 1st Test at Dubai

Bigg Boss 8 day 39 highlights: Upen Patel becomes the new captain, Puneet Issar continues to play games, Ali Quli Mirza bitches about Sonali Raut!

Apple replaces user’s iPad for free after NASA rocket mishap

Diet Tip #38: Choose whole wheat flour over white flour

Super Nani quick movie review: Rekha and Sharman Joshi’s melodramatic film is unintentionally funny

KL Rahul could be opening option for India’s tour to Australia

International programme in Animal Husbandry

NGOs pursue education for all

Xiaomi poaches Donovan Sung from Spotify to lead international product development: Report

How to sterilise your baby’s feeding bottle in 5 easy steps

Bibi Magazine Editor Discusses Experience with Breast Cancer and Raising Awareness

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here