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Indian captain leads from the front!
by Venu Palaparthi
Apr 09, 2005

On Thursday, the Indian captain scored 91 from 104 balls and remained unbeaten. Wait a minute! Why are you so surprised about this? Women play cricket too, you know!?

Mithali is no Mandira

There is only one other woman that is as widely recognized in Indian cricket as Mandira Bedi. It is Mithali Raj of Hyderabad. Unlike with Mandira Bedi, those straps that you see on Mithali are the ones on her pads! And the stripes she wears are the ones she wins for leading from the front.

22 year old Mithali is a phenomenon in the world of women’s cricket. A classy player from Hyderabad (does that sound redundant?), she single-handedly changed the Indian perception of women’s cricket. She proved to them that women take this game very seriously!

Dream debut and a world record or two!

In her 1999 ODI debut match against New Zealand, 17 year old Mithali scored 114. That was just the beginning of a stellar career. In 2002, Mithali was Woman of the Series when India swept England 5-0. Her furious 36 runs from 33 balls helped India win the first match. In the third match, playing at her home ground, she scored a useful 38 runs and then chipped in with her leg-spinners. She cleaned up the tail by taking 3 wickets for 4 runs in just 19 balls!

The same year, when India toured England in August, Mithali scored 214 in a marathon 417 ball innings which was the highest score in women’s test cricket until recently.

Captaincy at 22. Showing grit!

In her first series as captain against Australia in December of 2004, Mithali scored 60 and 22 in the first two matches that India lost.

In the third ODI, she played the role of Dravid as she anchored India’s winning chase with her score of 62 (11 fours and a six). She scored 20 and 36 in the fourth and fifth ODI’s which India lost. A resurgent India won the sixth after a classy 92 by Mithali and the seventh too but ended the series with a 3-4 record.

World Cup 2005

Ahead of the Women’s World Cup in South Africa, she promised to lead India into the finals, something Indian women have never done before. She made good on that promise.

In the semi-finals on April 7, Mithali led from the front with a fine unbeaten 91 as India beat defending champions New Zealand by 40 runs. Raj, declared the player of the match, scored her runs from 104 balls with the help of nine boundaries to rescue the Indians after a shaky start. The Kiwis had beaten Indians in the league round and the women avenged that defeat.

In the final, to be played on Sunday, India meet Australia who beat England in the other semi-final. And expect Mithali to show some spunk yet again! That is her style.

More Views by Venu Palaparthi
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