First female cricket star retires

India's Mithali Raj (right) on Wednesday announced her retirement from all international formats after 23 years dominating women's cricket as a batter and skipper.

She is the all-time leading run-scorer in women's one-day internationals and one of the most recognised figures in Indian sport.

A Bollywood biopic following the 39-year-old's trailblazing career is set to hit cinemas next month.

Mithali last captained India against South Africa in the Women's World Cup in March, when the team failed to make the semi-finals of the 50-over showpiece.

"Today is the day I retire from all forms of international cricket," Mithali, who quit Twenty20 internationals in 2019, tweeted.

"Each time I stepped on the field, I gave my very best with the intent to help India win.

"I will always cherish the opportunity given to me to represent the tricolour. I feel now is the perfect time to call curtains on my playing career as the team is in the capable hands of some very talented young players, and the future of Indian cricket is bright."

Mithali led India to two 50-over World Cup finals and finishes with 7,805 runs, including seven centuries in 232 ODI matches.

She began her career in 1999 in a one-day international against Ireland.

Raj is India's only double centurion in women's Tests, with her 214 against England in 2002. She also led India to four consecutive Asia Cup triumphs in 2005-06, 2006-07, 2008 and 2012.

However, perhaps her most significant achievement as captain came in 2014, when India sealed a historic Test series victory in England, with Mithali guiding the team home with an unbeaten 50 in the second innings.

As a skipper, Mithali has 89 wins out of 155 - the most by any player in women's ODIs.

Her 155 matches as captain is also the highest in women's ODIs.

Growing up, Mithali was passionate about Bharatnatyam but since she could not pursue that dance form, she brought that nimble footwork into her game. Her cover drives and back foot punches that the cricketing world relished, came naturally to her and to add to that flair, she had a water-tight technique that few could breach.

In terms of longevity, her 23-year-old international career is also awe-inspiring and rivals Sachin Tendukar's 24-year-run at the top of his game.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) congratulated Mithali for an outstanding international career.

ICC chief executive Geoff Allardice said she was a hero for cricketers around the world and hoped she would continue to contribute to the game in the years to come.

"Mithali is one of the all-time greats of the game. Over the past 23 years, many young girls and boys have been inspired to take up the sport after watching her," said Allardice.

"Mithali has played a huge role in raising the profile of women's cricket during a crucial period of its growth and I sincerely hope she will stay involved with the game in the coming years. On behalf of the ICC, I congratulate her for a fantastic career."

Mithali, who intends to stay involved in cricket, said: "This journey may have ended but another one beckons as I'd love to stay involved in the game I love and contribute to the growth of women's cricket in India and world over.

"Special mention to all my fans, thank you for all your love and support."

Hours after Mithali's retirement, Harmanpreet Kaur was named India's ODI captain for their upcoming tour of Sri Lanka. Smriti Mandhana will be her deputy.

The Indian women's team will play three T20Is and as many ODIs in Dambulla and Kandy during their Sri Lanka tour, which starts on June 23.

AFP

"Today is the day I retire from all forms of international cricket... I feel now is the perfect time to call curtains on my playing career as the team is in the capable hands of some very talented young players, and the future of Indian cricket is bright."

- Mithali Raj

 
 
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