As was pointed out on radio commentary during the big Australia v India match on Wednesday (July 12) in the Women’s World Cup 2017, Mithali Raj made her international debut back when the millennium bug was still a thing.
She came into the tournament 212 runs away from being the all-time leading scorer in women’s One-Day Internationals. Five games, two fifties, one missed fifty and one did-that-really-happen duck into the tournament later, the countdown clock to the record seemed to take forever.
In a big match for India, she played an especially sedate knock, plodding along with a strike-rate in the 40s. It was like the Raj of old, the one who tucked away her shots to be the anchor India needed.
At the start of a cloudy morning, she was 34 away from surpassing Charlotte Edwards’s 5992 runs in ODIs.
Into her 20s. The sun considers peeking out. Ellyse Perry bowling. Raj defends. And defends. And then can’t clear the fielders. It’s as if the clock has stopped.
The single that makes history is an innocuous one. Raj barely reacts. But in the fourth ball of the 29th over of India’s innings, India have the leading run-scorer in women’s ODIs, as well as the leading wicket-taker in Jhulan Goswami, who was there in the dug-out with everybody cheering on their Mitthu di.
It had taken Raj 164 innings, 16 fewer than Edwards, the former England captain, to get to the milestone.
But she wasn’t done for the day. A straight six – a rare one, she has only 11 in ODIs – helped her cross 6000 runs in the format.
She would finally fall for 69 off 114 balls, driving straight back to the bowler, Kristen Beams.
Her average would stay above 50, among the highest in the women’s game. In fact, having scored a 114 not out on debut, her average has never dropped below 37, and but for about 16 months in 2002-2003, has never fallen under 41. When India have won chasing, her average has been close to 110, as on date.
At 6028 runs, she’s over 2000 runs ahead of the next active player on that list.
“I’ve never chased milestones. If you have a long career, it’s part of your career. I’m not looking at getting that milestone, but yes, I’m looking forward to scoring runs,” she had said ahead of the game.
And on the day, nothing less than a win will matter.