It’s important to be a good athlete, because well, that’s only a fair demand if you take on a sport; but also because that keeps so many people going. This includes one’s contemporaries, the dreamers practicing in the nets, and billions of people watching matches on their televisions.
However, a player’s contribution can never completely be gauged by the perceptible parameters. At the end of the day, it comes down to the essence of an individual and the good it does. Without fail. Our favourites are rarely the athletes with “the best game”, there is always something more to it.
With that in mind, I have to say today that it is important to be a Mithali Raj.
It is important to stand up for yourself and then your chosen sport and then the team the sport gives to you.
It is important to learn from mistakes. It is important to cry. It is important to keep at it for so long, you end up shifting things, whether that was the plan or not.
I feel like when it comes to players of the stature of Mithali, one cannot possibly, decidedly, say “this was her biggest contribution so now that she is leaving let us celebrate that”.
In all likeliness, we don’t even know what her biggest contribution is. Was it those centuries? It can’t be. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, they were crucial because they won us matches (or sometimes not but that doesn’t diminish their value).
However, the eventual fate of a match, as significant as it might be, has an effect only so far-reaching. Mithali, in her own way, possibly changed the fate of some people’s lives by giving them hope. To understand that, you have to go back to the thought behind those centuries.
You’re not paid as much as your male counterparts, despite working twice as hard just by virtue of hurdles put in your way for no comprehensible reason. The wonders you do are undermined, most of your victories are not celebrated like they should be, your losses are not mourned.
Still, you go and you do what you think you were meant to do. That takes a certain courageous abandon that has to be developed, even if you were born with it.
Developing it is probably Mithali’s biggest contribution, but we don’t know how she did it so it’s tough to celebrate it with specificity.
Besides, any celebration of such courage is always overpowered by the thought that how unfortunate it was that it had to be shown.
Mithali Raj takes retirement from all forms of international cricket today, and I will say again, that let’s honour her professional achievements – the runs she made, the games she played, the finals she took us to.
But let us not get so carried away commemorating things we can see on a scorecard, that we forget to honour her importance, the reason for which shall always remain a mystery. Though I have a feeling it was something very simple, like turning up.