Followers of women’s cricket know well the names of Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, and may also have heard of Thirushkamini. But what about Reema Malhotra? Latika Kumari, anyone? Gouher Sultana, maybe?
These are all players who have dominated the women’s domestic circuit for over a decade. While a few may have managed to become household names, many others fly under the radar. Here, we take a look at ten players that have dominated the women’s circuit for quite some time now and would be the stars to watch in the upcoming domestic season.
(All domestic limited-overs matches since 2006-07 have been taken into account)
Mithali Raj (Railways)
Role: Right-hand middle-order batter
Matches: 98, Runs: 4326, Highest: 163 not out
Easily one of India’s best, and best known, women cricketers, Mithali Raj is a giant not only in the domestic circuit, but at the international level too. Where the likes of MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli and many other stars of the Indian men’s team give the domestic competition a skip once they make the top level, Raj has diligently turned out for Railways every season – partly, of course, because of the less hectic schedules of the women cricketers. The India Women’s captain has a staggering domestic record with eight centuries and 34 half-centuries, and her hunger for runs over the years hasn’t quite diminished. Raj finished the 2014-15 season as the highest run-getter in the one-day matches with a tally of 413 runs in seven matches at an average of 82.60 — child’s play for her, to be fair.
Jhulan Goswami (Bengal)
Role: Right-arm pacer and right-hand lower middle-order batter
Matches: 81, Runs: 1630, Highest: 120 not out, Wickets: 125, Best: 5-11
Jhulan Goswami may be utilised primarily as a bowler at the international level, but the pacer from Bengal has always been more than useful with the bat at the domestic level. She has scored crucial runs for Bengal every year, her one century and eight half-centuries evidence of that. The Bengal captain, still the fastest Indian bowler, and one of the fastest worldwide, has spearheaded her team’s bowling attack for more than a decade, and has taken more than her fair share of wickets along the way. While many may expect a senior pro like Goswami to take a domestic match lightly, it is never the case. The fast bowler is one of the most animated members of her team — one that includes a 17-year old.
Sulakshana Naik (Mumbai)
Role: Right-hand opening batter and wicketkeeper
Matches: 96, Runs: 2295, Highest: 128, Catches: 90, Stumpings: 71
Till three years ago, Sulakshana Naik was an integral part of the Railways Women squad. Since then, she has returned to the Mumbai setup and continued to dominate with the bat. The diminutive wicketkeeper-batter is women’s cricket’s own ‘pocket dynamite’. Her cracking cut shots and slogs over midwicket are much like those of Sanath Jayasuriya and, at 37, she still has the energy of a teenager and is forever buzzing behind the stumps, egging her bowlers on, and pulling off some incredible dismissals while at it.
Rumeli Dhar (Assam)
Role: Right hand batter and right-arm pacer
Matches: 84, Runs: 1229, Highest: 91, Wickets: 87, Best: 4-13
Rumeli Dhar, the allrounder from Bengal, will turn out for Assam this year. She spent much of her career playing for Railways Women, before she made the move to Rajasthan a few seasons ago and has now shifted to Assam. Dhar’s ability to swing the ball both ways made her one of the most difficult bowlers to play in her prime. Her middle-order batting, along with her ability to wield the long handle late in the innings and a dependable pair of hands at slip means the former India Women allrounder is always in the game.
Reema Malhotra (Delhi)
Role: Right-hand batter and legspinner
Matches: 93, Runs: 2162, Highest: 104 not out, Wickets: 130, Best: 4-15
At 35, Reema Malhotra may be no spring chicken, but she certainly fields with the enthusiasm of the youngest member on the park. Malhotra is a handy middle-order batter who also bowls some more than useful legspin. The former India allrounder will appear for Delhi this season, having represented Assam and Railways Women in the past. She has notched up one hundred and 14 fifties in her domestic career so far, and her underestimated legspin has earned her seven four-wicket hauls.
Karuna Jain (Karnataka)
Role: Right-hand top-order batter and wicketkeeper
Matches: 92, Runs: 2784, Highest: 126 not out, Catches: 62, Stumpings: 54
For the early part of her career, Karuna Jain was almost lost in the shadow of Anju Jain. Since Anju’s retirement, Karuna has emerged as one of the leading wicketkeeper-batters in India. She has been the mainstay of Karnataka’s batting lineup for over a decade. Whether opening the batting or walking in at No. 4 or No. 5, Jain has more often than not helped her team over the victory line. Her average for Karnataka is an impressive 47.26, with two hundreds and 19 fifties. The India wicketkeeper is more than competent behind the stumps; her anticipation and quick hands giving her 116 dismissals so far.
Latika Kumari (Delhi)
Role: Right-hand opening batter
Matches: 101, Runs: 2272, Highest: 103
Latika Kumari is the more explosive half of Delhi’s opening partnership with the bat, Priya Punia the other half. Her tall frame and powerful strokes are enough to scare any young bowler. She bats with the authority that any senior pro would, but it is her calmness at the crease that makes her dangerous. She can be frustratingly inconsistent, but when Latika gets going there is usually no bowler who can stop the rampage.
Gouher Sultana (Hyderabad)
Role: Left-arm spinner
Matches: 110, Wickets: 191, Best: 6-5
Gouher Sultana has been one of the most feared bowlers across the women’s domestic circuit for the past few years. She spent the last three seasons playing for Railways Women and has returned to Hyderabad this year. The left-arm spinner, who has represented India Women in two 50-over World Cups, has the ability to pick up wickets almost at will. She bowls with a great deal of control and gets the ball to drift in and turn away sharply. Sultana has been the spearhead of Hyderabad’s bowling attack for almost her entire career. Her team’s fortunes will depend a great deal on Sultana, but that’s hardly likely to make her feel pressured.
MD Thirushkamini (Railways)
Role: Left-hand opening batter
Matches: 81, Runs: 3387, Highest: 152, Wickets: 55, Best: 4-15
This left-handed opener who, up till last season, represented her home state of Tamil Nadu, may still be one of the rising stars of the Indian national team, but she is somewhat of a veteran in the domestic circuit. At only 25, Thirush has already played for over a decade at the senior level. Her record is more than impressive, with five hundreds and 24 fifties. She may not yet be a ‘stalwart’, but at this rate, the left-hander is well on her way there.
Punam Raut (Railways)
Role: Right-hand opening batter
Matches: 109, Runs: 4081, Highest: 131 not out
Much like her fellow opener, Thirushkamini, Punam Raut is also part of India’s rising batting brigade. Her run tally in domestic cricket is second only to Raj’s. Raut, who started her career with Mumbai and shifted to Railways four years ago, has scored six centuries and 33 half-centuries at a staggering average of 57.17. Similar in (physical) stature to fellow Mumbaikar Sachin Tendulkar, some of the strokes she plays would make the master proud. Raut is also quick between the wickets and agile on the field — something that gives her an edge over most others.