Mithali – defying all the odds
In the early 90s, the late Sampath Kumar, a low-profile cricket coach of the then APSRTC, used to take with him a young Mithali Raj to media houses to serve as a reminder of sorts about the huge potential the young cricketer had.
It was tough for Sampath and Mithali’s parents to see the kid make a difficult choice between cricket and her first love – classical dancing (Bharatnatyam). In retrospect, Bharatnatyam’s loss turned out to be cricket’s huge gain.
So, when Mithali – often dubbed as the Sachin Tendulkar of women’s cricket for her monumental feats with the willow – it was a culmination of an era in which she defied all odds.
From training diligently at the Keyes High School under the watchful eyes of Sampath Kumar to graduating to the seniors grade when there were only a handful of tournaments were organised, a young Mithali evolved and surmounted all possible challenges any women cricketer could face in those days.
Mithali often struggled to find quality bowlers to practice against before international assignments. A scenario which forced her to look at the St. John’s Coaching Foundation, which produced the likes of V.V.S. Laxman, Hanuma Vihari to name a couple.
Playing with the boys at the foundation under the tutelage of her then coach R.S.R. Murthy, Mithali slowly but surely demonstrated that she belonged to a different class.
Mithali was someone who tried her best to avoid controversies and successfully managed to keep her personal life away from the media glare and only let her bat do the talking.