#KnowYourStars: Mithali Raj – Bharatnatyam to Cricket

We all know Mithali Raj for her brilliant footwork. But very few might be knowing her for her footwork in her first love – Indian Classical Dancing.

Mithali was born in Jodhpur, Rajasthan in a Tamil family. Her father, an ex-airforce officer enrolled her in a coaching camp in Secunderabad at the age of 9 to break her habit of being a late riser. Her brother was already practicing in the same coaching camp which was an exclusive-boys camp. She being the only girl in the camp was given preference for batting that developed her interest to do well at the camp and sport.

But still she was holding onto her Bharatnatyam classes and was part of a dance group. Dance group was doing well in shows. She studied dance for eight years juggling between Cricket and Bharatnatyam. But she was unable to give full commitment to either of them. However, she was doing really well in Cricket and was already knocking the doors of Indian team with her performances.

She developed her game under the guidance of Sampath Kumar at Keyes school who predicted that she would be playing for India. At the age of 16, she debuted in ODI against Ireland. In her debut match, she made a statement by being a youngest centurion. A couple of years later, she scored the highest ever score (currently, 2nd highest) in the longest format of cricket. Since then she has became synonymous with Indian women cricket with her 18-year strong career.

It wasn’t an easy path for her. Her dad’s decision to put her into sport was met with criticism from some of her relatives. It was her parents who absorbed all the criticism and didn’t let this affect her game.

She continues to be an inspiration for budding athletes in India. She was awarded with “Arjuna Award” for her immense contribution in Cricket and “Padma Shri” which is India’s fourth highest civilian award.

We can say that Bharatnatyam’s loss is Cricket’s gain!

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