Mithali Raj announces retirement from international cricket

Mithali Raj has brought the curtain down on her storied career, announcing her decision to “retire from all forms of International Cricket” in a message on Twitter.

Raj, 39, wrote, “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.”

Though she didn’t give any concrete indicators on what her future plans were, she did say that she would stay connected with the game. “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,” she wrote. “It was an honour to have led the team for so many years. It definitely shaped me as a person & hopefully helped shape Indian Women’s Cricket as well.

“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.”

It has been one of the most celebrated careers in the game, during which Raj played 12 Tests, 232 ODIs and 89 T20Is, her last appearance for India coming during the 50-over World Cup earlier this year, in a game against South Africa, which India lost by three wickets to be knocked out of the tournament.

Raj, India’s captain, scored 68 in 84 balls in that game, her 64th half-century in the format, in which she compiled 7805 runs, including seven centuries, at an average of 50.68. In Tests, she aggregated 699 runs at an average of 43.68 with a century and four half-centuries. And in T20Is, where her appearances had been curtailed since the emergence of the “talented young players” she referred to in her retirement message, Raj scored 2364 runs at an average of 37.52 with 17 half-centuries and a high score of 97*.

Her overall tally of 10,868 runs made her the leading run-scorer in women’s international cricket, and no batter has scored more than her 7805 in women’s ODIs. She was also the first to score seven fifties in a row in women’s ODIs, where her tally of 64 is the highest.

Raj burst on to the national consciousness as a 16-year-old, where on international debut, she scored an unbeaten 114 in an ODI against Ireland at Milton Keynes on June 26, 1999. Her innings at the time gave her the record for the youngest centurion in women’s cricket across all formats. It remains an unbroken record in ODI cricket.

That kickstarted a career that reached never-before highs, as she quickly became the lynchpin of the India’s batting. Not long after, she led India to the final of the 2005 ODI World Cup, and when she did the same in 2017, Raj became the first Indian captain, male or female, to lead in two ODI World Cup finals. The winner’s crown, however, eluded her, as India lost a one-sided final in 2005 to Australia by 98 runs and then, 12 years later, in a much narrower contest to England by nine runs.

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