Indian women’s cricket team skipper Mithali Raj has become the first woman cricketer in the world to gross 6,000 runs. She trumps Charlotte Edwards of England, who retired with a career score of 5,992, as the highest run-scorer in the history of women’s cricket. And Raj did this with unshakeable elan, knocking off 69 from 114 balls in a World Cup match against Australia—the fact that India lost hardly takes the sheen off the captain’s achievement. Her career so far would seem like a sprint from one milestone to another—she took 16 innings lesser than Edwards to reach the record total, with an average of 51.5. Data from Wisden shows that Raj, ever since she made her debut in 1999 at the age of 17 when she scored an unbeaten 114 against Ireland, has never let her average drop below 37. In fact, when India have won chasing, her average has been close to a mind-blowing 110.
If nothing else, the faux pas by Indian men’s cricket team captain Virat Kohli—he posted a picture of Raj’s team-mate in his message of congratulations for Raj—should show how little note we take of the strides the country’s sportswomen have made. Sure, there are loud cheers at successes like Raj’s, but then it is all quiet there on till another sportswoman shatters the glass ceiling with some remarkable achievement. Sportsmen make off with our attention. Take, for instance, the women’s cricket team itself—it was only this year that BCCI accepted some of their demands for reviving enthusiasm for the game among women players. And this is how things are in cricket, easily India’s most popular sport.
The team is already star-packed; Jhulan Goswami has bagged the most number wickets in women’s cricket so far and is also its fastest bowler, Punam Raut and Deepti Sharma hold the record for the highest partnership by runs. India must nurture women’s sports if it is to field more Rajs, Goswamis and Rauts along with more Mirzas, Karmakars and Phogats.