When Indian women’s team captain Mithali Raj takes the field here on Sunday, she will become only the second cricketer after Sachin Tendulkar to play 22 years of One-day International (ODI) cricket.
Tendulkar played for 22 years and 91 days while Mithali would have spent just a day over 22 years when she goes out for toss against England captain Heather Knight on Sunday. The 38-year-old’s debut was on June 26, 1999 at Milton Keynes against Ireland. She was only 16 then.
Over the course of 22 years, she has scored 7,098 runs with seven centuries and 55 half-centuries in 214 women’s ODIs. The Jodhpur-born player is the only one in women’s cricket to score over 6,000 ODI runs. She has also scored 2364 T20 International runs.
“Feels nice to get up to messages congratulating me on my career,” said Mithali during a press conference on the eve of the first ODI against England.
“If I have to give a message to a 16-year-old, I would say enjoy getting on to the ground, first time representing your country, which clearly at that time… the expectation was so heavy on my shoulders that I didn’t get the opportunity to understand the importance of wearing the blue jersey and playing for the country, that is something I would say to the 16-year-old Mithali,” she added.
In her ODI debut 22 years ago, Mithali racked up an unbeaten 114 and shared a 258-run first-wicket partnership with fellow opener Reshma Gandhi, who too cracked a century — 104 not out. India won that match by 10 wickets.
Since then, Mithali has gone from strength to strength.