Woman in blue: Mithali Raj on how women’s cricket is finally gaining visibility

Mithali Raj, who was recently in Chennai, on how women’s cricket is finally gaining visibility and the need for more inclusive work spaces

October 09, 2017 05:03 pm | Updated 06:44 pm IST

Mithali Raj

Mithali Raj

For someone who says cricket wasn’t her first love as a child, Mithali Raj has had quite a good run in the field.

She’s captained the Indian Women’s cricket team twice to the ICC World Cup finals and was the highest run scorer for the country this year. During the World Cup in June/July her team and she managed to grab enough attention with their performance. They returned home from England to a rousing welcome at the Mumbai airport.

An inclusive inItiative
  • Naturals Enable is an initiative that provides employment opportunities to the visually challenged and hearing impaired. “We earlier had visually challenged masseurs giving foot reflexology at some of our salons. But with the launch of Enable we want to have a salon where 2/3rd of the staff is differently-abled. We wish to replicate this at the salons at malls too,” says Veena Kumaravel, founder Naturals group. The salon has also employed burn survivors and transgenders.

“When you see something live, you tend to appreciate it more,” says Raj, pleased with the unparalleled broadcast of the ICC Women’s World Cup this time. “The visibility in this World Cup was immense. We got more followers. We couldn’t get this momentum earlier,” she adds.

The cricketer was in the city at the launch of Naturals salon’s first Enable outlet that employs differently-abled people.

“It’s a great platform to showcase their ability. This makes them independent,” says Raj adding, “Just like the women’s team struggles for gender equality, these people too struggle to prove their capabilities every day.”

While she agrees things are looking up for women’s cricket in the country there still are a few issues plaguing sportswomen. “The career of a sportsperson is usually short. For women there is also the challenge of marriage and family.

Being Mithali
  • Seventeen years after Mithali Raj made her cricket debut, an autobiography on her life will be released. Published by Penguin Random House India, the book will take a candid look at her personal and sporting life and is set to be released next year.
  • She is the highest run scorer in the world with 6,190 ODI runs.
  • She won the Arjuna award at age 19.
  • Raj is the first captain to lead India twice in the ICC ODI World Cup finals (2005 and 2017).
  • She was honoured with the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, in 2015.
  • BBC named her one of the 100 most influential women in the world in 2017.

Even though we are increasingly becoming more career-oriented, I’ve seen a lot of talented girls get in the family way because of pressure from society and their families. Society should not try to subjugate women.” Raj has been playing for 17 years now and 2017 has been particularly good for her. She’s working on her autobiography and there’s also going to be a film made on her life. Raj and team will now prepare for the T20 World Cup next year in the West Indies.

She says there could also be an IPL for women in the future though “that requires a lot of discussions in terms of franchise, corporates and owners.” Like mixed doubles in tennis, is there ever a possibility of a mixed team? Raj smiles, “When it comes to men’s cricket, a lot depends on strength. Even though the standard of women’s cricket has vastly improved since the 90s, we don’t match their strength.”

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