It was the year 1989 and the date in the calendar was November 15. A 16-year-old shy boy walked down the steps for the first time as India were fielding against arch-rivals Pakistan. That kid today is known by many names like Master Blaster, God of cricket to name just a few. But back in those days, he was a merely known as Sachin Tendulkar – claim to fame being that he was representing India. With him setting foot in the stadium that day started a journey that would last 24 years, lead to the amassing of 200 Test matches with 15,921 runs coming in it. To add to his record breaking god-like status, he would score 51 centuries and 68 half centuries. But everything needs to be balanced out. Little did the world know back then that there was another legend in the making.
In 1999, a young girl walked down to the crease at Milton Keynes only to score a hundred in her debut match against Ireland. The teenager was Mithali Raj and that knock of 114 made her the youngest ever ODI centurion. It’s been 18 years and today that young girl has scripted a new record. In a match against Australia in the Women’s World Cup yesterday, Mithali Raj broke the age-old record of former England captain Charlotte Edwards 5992 runs to become the highest run-getter of all time. She now is at the helm of the list with 6028 runs in 183 matches. The 34-year-old Indian women’s skipper has had a prolific career so far.
At the age of 19, Raj made headlines for the second time ever since her debut. This time for scoring a double century against England at Taunton in a Test match. She scored 214 runs and that inning was the highest ever individual Test score at the time, a record surpassed only by Pakistan’s Kiran Baluch in 2004. She was like a wizard in the cricket arena casting spells on the cricket fans. Accio it is. Often dubbed as the ‘Sachin Tendulkar of women’s cricket’ Raj shares one of the Little Master’s traits- longevity. It has been 18 years and she is an unstoppable force in the women’s cricket world and breaking records like no other has. She was honoured to be recognised as one of the six Wisden India Cricketers of the Year for 2015.
She recently became the first woman to score seven consecutive fifties in ODI cricket. Perhaps Raj’s most remarkable stat, though, is that she has averaged over 40 in ODIs in 18 calendar years since her debut – the same number as Tendulkar managed over his own career. At 34, she still has time on her side. As well as leading from the front with the bat, Raj has been her country’s commander in the field too, captaining the side since 2004 with the exception of a five-year period between 2008 and 2012. The highlight of her captaincy came in 2005 when at the age of 22, she captained India to its first ever Women’s World Cup final but were beaten by Australia. She is looking for redemption in this year’s World Cup and the team has performed well so far. But it’s still a long road for Mithali Raj and team to get their hands on the maiden trophy.