Mithali Raj
Mithali Raj - time for a 'second innings,' as she says on Twitter. Image Credit: PTI

Kolkata: Mithali Raj, the face of women's cricket in India over the last two decades, has retired from all forms of international cricket on Wednesday.

Raj, now 39, took to the Twitter to announce that she is drawing the curtains on a journey spanning 23 years and will focus on her ''second innings.'' This also marked the end of the 'MilJhul' (loosely meant together) era in women's cricket of the country - a partnership which she forged with the towering pace bowler Jhulan Goswami.

"Like all journey, this one too must come to and end," the 39-year-old said in her statement. 

"Today is the day I retire from all forms of international cricket." Raj made her India debut as a 16-year-old in a 1996 one-dayer against Ireland and scored 68 against South Africa in a Women's World Cup match in Christchurch in March in what proved to be her last international outing.

Her tally of 7805 runs, which include seven hundreds, from 232 matches makes her the leading scorer in women's ODIs. Only last March, Raj emulated the feat of two of sub-continent's cricket greats - Sachin Tendulkar and Javed Miandad - of playing in her sixth 50-overs World Cup.

She also played 12 Test matches for her 699 runs, which include a career-best 214 against England at Taunton in 2002. If the number of Tests look conspicuously fewer than her ODI appearances, it also reflects the few number of women's Tests that are played in international cricket.

"... the last 23 years have been the most fulfilling, challenging & enjoyable years of my life," said Raj, who led India to the World Cup finals in 2005 and 2017.

"I feel now is the perfect time to call curtains on my playing career as the team is in the capable hands of some very talented young players and the future of Indian cricket is bright."

The Raj-Goswami duo is credited with ushering in professionalism, focus on fitness in women's cricket - which saw Raj taking part in six 50-overs World Cups and Goswami in five. If there had been any regret in her career, it had to be that of laying her hands on the World Cup. 

Shabaas Mithu, the biopic on her directed by Srijit Mukherjee, had been on the pipeline for quite a while and is now slated for release next month. Taapsee Pannu, the Bollywood A-lister who is playing Mithali in the film, was one of the first to take to social media as tributes poured in for this leader of women's cricket.