Who is the best Indian batswoman - Mithali Raj or Harmanpreet Kaur?
Generally when we talk about the leading women cricketers from India or even around the world for that matter, one of the first names that we come up with happens to be of Mithali Raj. And considering Raj’s numbers and the way she has plundered runs for India over the years, that’s not wrong either.
But is it correct to rate a batter purely on the basis of numbers that are on paper, or is it also about the natural ability that a batter carries? At the big stage in big global tournaments, we have seen Harmanpreet Kaur - someone who has always lived in the shadow of Raj - pull off two absolutely sensational knocks in the last two years. One came in the semifinal of the ODI World Cup last year against Australia, and one yesterday in the first match of the Women's World T20 against New Zealand.
Between these two knocks, Kaur has probably not been as consistent as Raj. But if we talk purely about the batting ability, there are two questions - 1. is there anything Raj can do which Kaur can’t, and 2. is there anything Kaur can do which Raj can’t?
Let’s try to answer these questions.
The trademark of Raj’s batting is the control that she provides during her presence at the crease, which is best seen in her efficient rotation of the strike. She is excellent at milking the spinners as well as the fast bowlers, and keeps the scoreboard ticking.
However, she doesn’t have the potential to find boundaries at will and or to hit boundaries off good balls. While Raj keeps the scoreboard ticking, she is not a fluent boundary hitter, so there is always a danger of the innings run rate coming down while she is at the crease.
Kaur is also very capable of providing control and can rotate the strike well, but she has also got those extra gears in her batting, something which is missing in Raj’s batting. Kaur can launch big shots easily and possesses the ability to go on a six-hitting spree against any kind of bowling when she is in the mood.
Even in yesterday’s game, at one stage Kaur was batting on 21 off 20 balls. But she was able to reach her hundred off just 49 deliveries and that’s because she has the power which enables her to seamlessly go on the offense. Raj, on the other hand, is blessed with a touch game but not irresistible power, so when the situation demands big shots and the big sixes, she sometimes gets found out.
When we discuss consistency, there is no doubt that Raj is ahead of Harman. But should consistency be the sole criterion to rate batters or should it be about ability to own the situation when the stakes are highest?
Raj is and always has been tipped as India’s greatest, but it can be argued that she lacks that extra dimension in her batting which Kaur. While Kaur can do everything that Raj can as a batter, there are a few things which Kaur can do, but Raj can’t.
Does that make Kaur a legitimate name for consideration in every 'best' conversation?