Talk about Indian men's cricket and several names like Sachin Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, MS Dhoni, Sourav Ganguly, Virat Kohli will crop up. Talk about Indian women's cricket and the first names to come to your mind will be of Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami. In fact there will be an invariable pause before you could think of another name to place in the same category as theirs.
For many and for long Mithali and Jhulan have been the identity of women's cricket in India. And the very fact is a testament to their domination and longevity as cricketers. Make no mistake, they have not only played for India the longest, they have played the game better than anyone else.
The mind-boggling numbers
Mithali and Jhulan have played 185 and 163 ODIs for India - the most and the second-most respectively. That's the longevity part. Mithali is the highest run-getter in ODI history and also the only player to cross 6000-run mark. Jhulan has 192 wickets in her kitty - the highest in the world.
Mithali made her debut in 1999 against Ireland. The batswoman gave a glimpse of the talent in her very first match as she struck an unbeaten ton on debut. Only 16 years old, the middle-order batter became the youngest women’s cricketer to score a hundred on her debut in ODIs.
Since then, she has created and broken many records. Apart from being the highest run-scorer in the world. The cricketer also holds the record of most consecutive fifties - she created the record by scoring the seventh consecutive half-century against England in the ongoing tournament. She has 55 number of 50-plus scores to her name, the joint-most for any player.
Jhulan made her debut for India in 2002 and the fast bowler has spearheaded the Indian attack since then. Famous for her disciplined bowling, the Bengal cricketer eclipsed the decade-long record of 180 wickets held by Cathryn Fitzpatrick in May 2017 against South Africa.
The pacer was also adjudged ICC's 'Women Cricketer of the Year' in 2007.
The pair has been the shining light of Indian women's cricket for long. And while the 'Women in Blue' are enjoying the limelight for their performance in the World Cup, Mithali and Jhulan helped them keep the flag flying high during the dark and gloomy days.
The last push
Sachin Tendulkar, who for many is the greatest batsman of all time, held the dream of winning a World Cup for 22 years before it came true in 2011. It will be foolish to think Mithali and jhulan does not harbour a similar dream.
On Sunday, the two champions will take the field against England as India will try to clinch their first World Cup trophy. The duo was also part of the last India team which reached the final in 2005 - they lost it to Australia.
The 2017 final is likely to be their last. As always they will give their everything in the final but even if the result turns out to be a bummer, their legacies are secured and it will live on.
Feature image: Mithali Raj/Facebook