WHO’S THAT GIRL?

PRE­SENT­ING IN­DIAN WOMEN’S CRICKET CAP­TAIN MITHALI RAJ IN A NEW, ALL-GLAM AVATAR...

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - News - Text by Veenu Singh // Pho­tos shot ex­clu­sively for HTBrunch by Prab­hat Shetty // Styling by Shamali Singh

You could call Mithali Raj unique. Cap­tain of the In­dian women’s cricket team, she is the only fe­male crick­eter in the world so far to sur­pass the 6,000-run mark in ODIs, the first In­dian cricket cap­tain to lead the team to an ICC ODI World Cup fi­nal twice and has re­cently made it at num­ber 13 in the Lord’s Top 20 Play­ers of 2017 list.

But Mithali’s life is not only about the sport she plays pro­fes­sion­ally. The 35-yearold is just as com­fort­able as a glam­our queen as she is on the cricket pitch; in fact, when she’s all dressed up, you could al­most imag­ine her on the big screen, play­ing her­self in a biopic. But that will never hap­pen, she laughs. “Act­ing is just not my style,” she says. “Though I don’t mind hav­ing a film made on my life, mainly be­cause it cel­e­brates the jour­ney of a woman crick­eter, which doesn’t hap­pen very of­ten.”

What is her style if it isn’t act­ing? Hon­estly, it could be any­thing. When I first meet Mithali at the Shangri-La Ho­tel in Ben­galuru, she’s just walked in from train­ing camp, in T-shirt and shorts, hair in a bun, look­ing like the girl next door. Af­ter stylist Shamali and make-up artist Michel are done with her, Mithali is stun­ning in ev­ery­thing she wears for this shoot. She’s just as con­fi­dent in a pair of jeans matched with a flam­ing red top and high heels, and in an off-shoul­der blouse, and in a body-hug­ging white gown, as she was in her work clothes. Clearly, it isn’t clothes that make Mithali look awe­some. It’s the other way around. Mithali makes clothes look amaz­ing.

“No mat­ter how stylish you are, you can­not look good if you are not con­fi­dent,” says Mithali, shrug­ging off our praise. “And that has a lot to do with your com­fort level. I am com­fort­able with the clothes, and that’s why I am con­fi­dent of my­self.”

“NO MAT­TER HOW STYLISH YOU ARE, YOU CAN­NOT LOOK GOOD IF YOU ARE NOT CON­FI­DENT”

STYLE AND THE WOMAN

Glam­our and sports def­i­nitely go hand in hand. Crick­eter Vi­rat Kohli is con­sid­ered a style icon. Ten­nis player Sania Mirza has rocked fash­ion mag­a­zine cov­ers with her nose ring and de­signer wear. Even shut­tler PV Sindhu has had a date with fash­ion.

Mithali is very much on this list of In­dian sports peo­ple who rock their games and their style. For in­stance, dressed in a gor­geous black Jo­hanna Or­tiz jump­suit, with blown out hair, she shared cover space with icons like Shah Rukh Khan and Nita Am­bani in the 10th an­niver­sary is­sue of Vogue this year, and pretty much stole the lime­light.

But that wasn’t her first brush with glam­our. She’s al­ways been stylish in her own way, and slightly re­sents the way peo­ple seem to be­lieve that sports peo­ple only live in sports­wear. “I have al­ways been fash­ion­able, but peo­ple don’t know that be­cause I have only re­cently been in the pub­lic eye,” she says. “I’ve en­joyed wear­ing dresses since I was a teenager. But they have to be com­fort­able; nei­ther too tight, nor too short. Com­fort has al­ways been the key­word for me. My body needs to breathe.”

Dresses have al­ways been Mithali’s go-to glam sim­ply be­cause, as a crick­eter from the age of 10, her wardrobe has been dom­i­nated by shorts and track pants.

“Ini­tially when I started ex­per­i­ment­ing with my looks, I felt a lit­tle out of place. Thank­fully, my mom has al­ways given me the free­dom to wear what­ever I want, which is mostly Western wear,” she says. “I am not com­fort­able in tra­di­tional wear like saris and sal­war-kameez since I was rarely home for fam­ily func­tions or fes­ti­vals.”

La­bels are not at the top of her mind when she shops. Mithali is con­cerned only with fit and fab­ric, and is just as happy buy­ing from flea mar­kets as she is from malls. She’s also re­al­is­tic about her style choices and has never fallen into the fash­ion vic­tim trap of never re­peat­ing an out­fit at so­cial events. “If I feel good about a par­tic­u­lar dress or style, then I have no qualms about re­peat­ing it even on a pub­lic plat­form,” she says. “I’m not like celebs who are scared to do so. This way, I want to tell peo­ple that I am as nor­mal as they are, and do the same things.”

Un­like most teenagers, Mithali never felt the need for par­ties and night­clubs. She was just happy with her girl gang, and even on her first date, which hap­pened when she was in Class 11, she wasn’t ‘dressed up’.

“I was not in­ter­ested in clothes or make-up at that time. I just wore jeans and a top,” Mithali smiles. “I al­ways pre­ferred ca­sual wear, though my mother used to

“I’VE EN­JOYED WEAR­ING BEAU­TI­FUL DRESSES SINCE I WAS A TEENAGER. BUT THEY HAVE TO BE COM­FORT­ABLE; NEI­THER TOO TIGHT, NOR TOO SHORT!”

com­plain about it some­times. I started us­ing make-up very late and still don’t use it of­ten ex­cept for so­cial events. And even then, I have some­times gone make-up free, and felt just as con­fi­dent about my­self.”

IN­DE­PEN­DENCE DAY

Life, for Mithali, is about be­ing in con­trol. Per­haps this stems from the way she spent her years, train­ing, train­ing and train­ing more. “I have mostly been away from home, so be­sides my par­ents, the books I read shaped my life,” she says. “The few that have in­flu­enced me in­clude my all-time favourite, Jef­frey Archer’s Paths of Glory, a fan­tasy se­ries by Rick Rior­dan called

He­roes of Olym­pus, and an­other by Matthew Reilly, which is based on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween a teacher and a stu­dent. All these books have nur­tured my in­tel­lec­tual abil­ity.”

This in­de­pen­dence of mind is why Mithali pays no at­ten­tion to the trolls who diss her fash­ion choices – “I can’t change my life for these peo­ple” – and also says, she has no sports icons her­self. “I want to do things in my style,” she says firmly. “Every­one has their own unique­ness.” She also does not wor­ship film celebs, though she ad­mires Shah Rukh Khan for his wit, and en­joys Twin­kle Khanna’s posts on In­sta and Twit­ter. “I like Twin­kle’s style,” says Mithali. “I feel she is more real than other Bol­ly­wood celebs.”

Beauty, for her, is about orig­i­nal­ity, not per­fec­tion. “Even im­per­fec­tion can be beau­ti­ful, while made-up beauty is short lived,” she says firmly. “Be­ing dif­fer­ent is also beau­ti­ful. When you go out, peo­ple say that you have to be­have a cer­tain way. I don’t be­lieve in liv­ing up to those norms.”

This is why skin­care is more im­por­tant to Mithali than makeup. “I am more con­cerned about is­sues re­lated to pig­men­ta­tion af­ter be­ing in the sun for long hours,” she says. “I would pre­fer to in­vest in good skin­care brands. Es­pe­cially sun­screens that can pro­tect my skin.”

But she’s open to make-up ex­per­i­men­ta­tion too: she loves try­ing new things – as long as the prod­ucts are good. “I have sen­si­tive skin, so I am very par­tic­u­lar about this,” she says.

She also en­joys dress­ing up once in a while, but she would never overdo it even for a spe­cial date. “I would def­i­nitely dress up, but not so much that my per­son­al­ity is over­shad­owed,” she says. “And the per­son I’d like to be with must be will­ing to ac­cept a strong, in­de­pen­dent woman like me. Even to­day, men don’t want in­de­pen­dent women. Women are still not treated equally. I want the spe­cial per­son in my life to be some­one who will let me take the re­spon­si­bil­ity for my life.”

“I’M NOT AN AC­TOR, BUT I DON’T MIND HAV­ING A FILM MADE ON MY LIFE AS IT CEL­E­BRATES THE JOUR­NEY OF A WOMAN CRICK­ETER”

#Cap­tainGlam

Mithali wears an asym­met­ri­cal frilly dress by Gauri & Nainika, neck­lace from Blue­stone.com and stilettoes from Chris­tian Louboutin

Mithali wears a white asym­met­ri­cal dress by Gauri & Nainika and tie-up shoes from Chris­tian Louboutin

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