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Mithali Raj on the cusp of crossing the 6000-run mark

Indian captain Mithali Raj is just 41 runs away from becoming the first woman cricketer to score 6,000 runs in ODIs, a feat she may accomplish in the upcoming matches of the World Cup. She is now second only to Charlotte Edwards in the women topscorers in ODI list, and her average is way ahead of Edwards. Mithali Raj has played 181 ODIs, scoring 5,959 runs at an average of 51.81. She has so far scored five centuries, her highest being 114 not out. She has also taken eight wickets with her part-time legbreak bowling, with 3-for-4 being her best numbers.

Mithali Raj has played only 10 Tests, having made her debut in 2002. She has the highest individual score in Tests. She has scored 663 runs at an average of 51.00, her best being 214 not out. She has also played 63 T20 Internationals, scoring 1,708 runs at an average of 37.95 with a highest of 73 not out. Mithali Raj has often been called the “Sachin Tendulkar of Indian women’s cricket” having made her ODI debut at the age of 16. Her unbeaten 114 in that match against Ireland paved way for an Indian victory.

Flamboyant, charismatic and blunt without being rude, the Indian women's team skipper has made all the right moves in press conferences and media interactions apart from her quirky strategies on the field. However, comparisons with male cricketers may not go down well with Mithali Raj. While speaking before departing for the ICC Women's World Cup, she was asked about her favourite male cricketer. "Do you ask the same question to a male cricketer? Do you ask them who their favourite female cricketer is?” she responded. “I have always been asked who's your favourite cricketer, but you should ask them who their favourite female cricketer is.” Her retort became viral on Twitter with several recognised members lauding her response.

Opener Smriti Mandhana made amends for missing out on a hundred against England with a scintillating unbeaten 106 and guided India to a comfortable sevenwicket victory against West Indies in the Women’s World Cup. Chasing a modest target of 184, Indian eves won with as many as 45 balls to spare, courtesy another superlative performance from the left-handed opener Mandhana. After her matchwinning 90 against hosts England, Mandhana started from where she had left the other day, hitting 13 fours and two sixes - both pull shots. In the form of her life, Indian opener Smriti Mandhana is hungry for more and wants to carry on her dream run through the rest of the Women's World Cup. It was a real gamble for the selectors to pick her for the tournament as Mandhana suffered a torn cruciate ligament in her left knee, which meant that she had not played any cricket since January. "I was determined to do well to show (the selectors) that they made the correct decision," added Mandhana after slamming her second century in 25 ODIs. "It's not over yet but I'm really happy that I've made a good comeback after the injury," she added.

Meanwhile the Indian Team has been progressing well towards the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup. After four consecutive wins they dropped the game against South Africa, a good wake up call. The batsmen have been severe with Deepti Sharma impressing everyone. India has won over hearts with their impressive display in the Women's World Cup but even more spectacular has been the manner in which the spinners have bowled for the eve's team. If it was Deepti Sharma's off breaks that restricted England in the first game, Poonam Yadav and Harmanpreet Kaur rolled their arms over with success against the Windies. Against Pakistan, Mithali Raj opened the attack with Ekta Bisht and the left-arm spinner had the Pakistan top order in a tangle with her drift and around the wicket angle.

Indian cricketer, Suresh Raina is closely following the Indian women’s team progress in the ICC?Women’s World Cup in England. “The Indian team is on a roll and all credit goes to Mithali (Raj) — how she is able to extract performance from the youngsters apart from doing well herself. The win against Pakistan was special and I am cheering for them to go all the way and win the World Cup,” said Raina, who is training for his own comeback.

Raina picked Deepti Sharma, the 19-year old from Agra, for special mention. Deepti had smashed 78 runs in India’s win over Sri Lanka. “I am so proud of Deepti, the way she batted with maturity alongside Mithali, showing her intent. The wicket was on the slower side. Keeping this in mind, Deepti pushed for singles and couples to build up her innings at the start and later she went for the shots. Her shot selection was impeccable. After my training here, I watched the highlights,” Raina said.

Raina had met Deepti in New Delhi after she had set up a world record opening stand of 320 runs with Punam Raut against Ireland, contributing 188 runs, in South Africa. “Deepti is going to rock again with the bat. Wait for more brilliant knocks from her. I am also surprised at the turn she is getting with her off-spinners in England,” added Raina.

The daughter of a retired Indian Railways employee and a government school retired principal, Deepti’s tryst with cricket started when she was eight and used to accompany her brother Sumit to the local stadium for his practice sessions. Deepti has six siblings in all, five brothers and one sister. During the IndiaWorld Cup matches, all neighbourhood friends get together at Deepti’s place to watch the game on TV. “Everyone was happy to see Deepti score well. We were disappointed when she got out. It would have been good to see her score a ton,” shared Sumit. At home, Deepti is fond of cooking. Her brother insists she makes world’s best “Poha”. “When she is home, she loves to cook. She loves making “Poha” for everyone for breakfast,” said Sumit.

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