Mithali Raj is the first female cricketer to win the Wisden India Cricketer of the Year award. © Wisden India

Mithali Raj is the first female cricketer to win the Wisden India Cricketer of the Year award. © Wisden India

Mithali Raj, the captain of the India Women’s cricket team, was honoured to be recognised as one of the six Wisden India Cricketers of the Year for 2015.

An accomplished batter, Raj was in charge of the Indian team that recorded a famous four-wicket Test win over England in Wormsley in August 2014. In what was India’s first four-day assignment in eight years, Raj marshalled her resources efficiently on the field before making an unbeaten 50 in a successful chase of 181.

Though India lost the subsequent limited-over series against England, Raj went on to become the second-highest run-getter in the history of One-Day Internationals, behind only Charlotte Edwards.

Raj became the first female cricketer to win the award, and was a part of a list consisting of Ajinkya Rahane, Rishi Dhawan, Angelo Mathews, Umar Akmal and Mominul Haque.

“It’s a nice gesture and being a first-timer means that you have done something and reached somewhere that nobody has done before,” Raj told Wisden India. “It makes one feel very happy for working so hard for all these years.”

Speaking about the Test success in England, Raj, a recent Padma Shri award winner, detailed the challenges she faced during the tour.

“I had a very young and raw side with a whole lot of debutants. It was a huge challenge as a captain,” she explained. “As an individual, I have scored a lot of runs in English soil, but in the team my role was much bigger.

“It added a lot of responsibility, knowing that you don’t have many supporting players for the Test and the team is looking up to you,” added Raj. “It was important to deliver and I was myself playing after eight long years. For me initially it was tough to prepare for the longer format after such a gap, as we don’t play on a regular basis to easily jump from one format to another. It was quite a unique experience.”

Raj was happy to see that the back cover of the Almanack had a photo of her winning Test team.

“It’s nice to get featured,” she said. “With so much being written about men’s cricket in the World Cup year, to find something being mentioned about women’s cricket feels very good. The girls put in as much effort as the men cricketers do. At some level, every woman cricketer wants to be recognised for their efforts.”

To buy the 2015 Wisden India Almanack click here or here