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 honor 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.”
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 7,805 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, in fact, led India for a large part of his career. In eight of her 12 Tests, she was the captain, from as far back as November 2005 to the other day, when India played Australia in Carrara in September 2021. India won four of those Tests. She also led India to 89 wins in 155 ODIs, and in T20Is, 17 wins in 32 games.
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.
Raj’s sound batting technique – helped along by outstanding footwork, perhaps a result of her childhood enthusiasm for Bharatanatyam, the classical Indian dance form – and ability to bat for long periods and anchor innings across formats made her an inspiration for the many that have followed. Like Smriti Mandhana.
“That is a very difficult space to be in as a batter. But she has been consistent, despite being in that headspace – that’s a big task. She’s calm and relaxed even if there are, say, two or three dot balls. I used to get a bit panicky earlier, but she has always been calm.”
A career at the highest level as long as Raj’s can’t be without controversy, and the biggest of them was the face-off between her and India coach Ramesh Powar during the 2018 T20 World Cup in the Caribbean. Things came to a head during the league phase of the World Cup when Raj was asked to move down the batting order, and she hit rock bottom when Raj was left out of India’s semi-final against England, a knock-out match they lost. The long, and somewhat sordid, saga of he-said-she-said ended when Powar was not given an extension and, not long after, WV Raman took charge of the team.
There had been murmurs that Raj’s career was nearing an end as recently as last month, when she was left out of the three-team Women’s T20 Challenge tournament, Deepti Sharma replacing her as captain of the Velocity team. Even prior to the Challenge, during the BCCI’s Senior Women’s T20 Trophy, Sneh Rana was the captain of the Railways team that won the trophy, while Raj was with the squad but didn’t play, and adopted a mentoring role instead.
That might be one of her options going forward too, in her attempts to “contribute to the growth of Women’s Cricket in India and the world over”, as she said in her retirement statement.