The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dancing down a different track

Calcutta: Bharatanatyam and cricket do not normally go hand in hand. But they do for Mithali Raj, who has to her credit the highest score in an innings in women’s Test cricket.

“I dreamt of becoming a dancer and was into Bharatanatyam from a very young age,” Mithali said during a chat with The Telegraph at Eden Gardens on Thursday. She was practising with 23 other probables for the Indian women’s team bound for the mini-World Cup in New Zealand from January 26.

“But with cricket-mania catching up, I had to leave Bharatanatyam professionally. But the dance steps proved to be a huge help for me in my batting.”

The Hyderabadi lass said her Bharatanatyam background helped her footwork and helped her play the spinners better. “For playing the spinners, footwork is essential, and my dance steps really got my legs going,” she said.

Looking back fondly on her epic 214 versus England last July, Mithali said, “The ball was doing a bit and it was a little tough initially. But slowly things fell into place and it carried on from thereon.”

She added that the two months after her achievement had seemed to be the stuff of fairy-tales, but a sense of ‘settling-in’ had gradually come in.

Mithali revealed an interesting aspect of the game in her hometown. Apparently, the hub of Hyderabad cricket, the Gymkhana does not allow women cricketers to play. “I don’t know why, but we never got the chance to play there. There are such good turf wickets there, but we can’t avail them.”

Denied turf, she had to continue on matting wickets, something that did not help her cause at all. “When we get on turf wickets against foreign teams, it becomes tough.”

However, according to the 20-year-old, Andhra Pradesh redeems itself by being having a women’s league, the only one of its kind in India. And that helps her get enough match-practice.

Recounting her one-to-one with role model Sachin Tendulkar during an award ceremony, an obviously-excited Mithali said, “It was a dream come true for me. He asked me about the state of women’s cricket in India. I had so many things to ask him, but in the excitement of it all, I just forgot.”

The spunky Mithali seemed determined to wipe out the humiliation that the Indian men are suffering in New Zealand. ‘It’ll be a challenge playing against the top teams (New Zealand, Australia and South Africa), but I’m quite confident of doing well.”

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