India Women Test and ODI captain Mithali Raj recently created history when she went past England legend Charlotte Edwards to become the female cricketer with the most runs in international cricket. For the record, Raj has amassed 10,337 runs in international cricket. Of these, 7304 runs have come in 217 ODIs, 2364 runs in 89 T20Is and 669 in 11 Tests. She is already the leading run-scorer in women’s ODI by some distance – Edwards is second on the list with 5992 runs from 191 matches. Undoubtedly, Raj is the greatest batter in Indian women’s history. But, is she also the best in women’s cricket overall? We try to analyse.
Raj vs other great women batters
Since the women do not play a lot of Test cricket, we will stick to performances in limited-overs matches in our analysis. Starting with Raj first, she has played 87 of his 217 ODIs at home, in which she has scored 2833 runs at an average of 53.45 with three hundreds. Away from home, the Indian captain’s average falls a bit, but it is impressive nonetheless. she has 2869 runs to her name in 85 matches at an average of 46.27 with one hundred. Raj has struggled in Australia, where she averages 30.15 from 13 matches. However, she has a wonderful record in England (average 48.95 from 27 matches) and South Africa (average 43.75 from 11 games). Even in New Zealand, where the ball moves around a fair bit, Raj averages just under 40 from 10 matches.
While her away record in Australia might not be great, she had a brilliant run in Australia during the 2009 World Cup, where she was India’s leading run-scorer with 247 runs from seven matches at an average of nearly 62. In the 2017 World Cup, she scored another memorable hundred against New Zealand in England. So, she has definitely risen to the occasion in big tournaments. In fact, her record at neutral venues is better than her overall one in ODIs. In 45 matches she has played at neutral venues, Raj has 1602 runs to her name at an average of 61.61 with three hundreds.
Looking at Edwards, she scored 2149 runs in 81 ODIs at home, averaging 32.56 with two hundreds. She had a better record away from home, averaging 40.38 from 74 games with four tons. At neutral venues too, she had an excellent record – an average of 46.39 from 36 matches. Aussie legend Belinda Clark averaged over 50 from 31 home matches and nearly 40 from 55 away games. At neutral venues, Clark managed an exceptional average of 60.09 from 32 matches. As per the stats, Raj is definitely up there with the best. She has proved herself in the most challenging of conditions, and has matched the greatest in the women’s game.
Going beyond numbers – Longevity and a lone battle
To judge the greatness of Raj, we need to go beyond just her numbers on the cricket field. Her longevity in the game has been nothing short of extraordinary. Recently, she created history when she became the first women’s cricketer to complete 22 years in international cricket. Even in men’s cricket, only Sachin Tendulkar’s has had a long international career than Raj. That says a lot about the legend of Mithali Raj. Making her debut as a 16-year-old back in 1999, she has indeed gone places.
While there may have been some criticism over Raj’s strike rate, it must be taken into account that, like Tendulkar, Raj played in a weak batting outfit for the first half of her career. Only in recent years has the pressure reduced on Raj, with the emergence of Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur. Also, unlike in Tendulkar’s case, it was mostly Raj waging a lone battle against all odds. Only recently has the BCCI begun to promote women’s cricket in the manner that the sport deserves. Whether Raj is the greatest women batter ever is open to debate. What cannot be denied is that she has changed the face of women’s cricket in India, forever.