Deepti Sharma: India's trump card in ICC Women's World Cup 2022

Versatility with bat and ability to bowl in powerplay and middle-overs makes the all-rounder crucial to India's plans at the global event.

Published: 28th February 2022 01:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th February 2022 01:58 PM   |  A+A-

India all-rounder Deepti Sharma

India all-rounder Deepti Sharma (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: If asked about who holds the record for the highest individual score by an Indian in Women’s ODIs, nine out of ten would say Harmanpreet Kaur’s 171 n.o without blinking an eye.

However, it is Deepti Sharma, who smashed 188 against Ireland in 2017 as an opener. 

In the five years since, a lot has changed with respect to the Indian team and Deepti’s role in it. But, the one thing that remains a constant is the value the all-rounder brings to the team, especially in the 50-over format.

Predominantly a top-order batter in domestic circuit for Bengal, Deepti has been used at various positions in the batting order over the years in the Indian team and that reflects in numbers as well — 1720 runs at 36.59 in ODIs. 

More than the batting, her role with the ball has been crucial for India and she has been exemplary till the pandemic struck.

Indian spinners' struggle in the last 12 months is no new news, and Deepti was no exception. With five wickets in ten matches, she averaged 76.80 with the ball in 2021. 

While there were glimpses of her skill in The Hundred and Women’s Big Bash League, in ODIs, it seemed like teams played her out comfortably without giving any wickets. 

Her performance came under scrutiny and rightly so, with the World Cup coming up.

Cut to the bilaterals against New Zealand, she looked a different bowler. Right from the lone T20I, Deepti was making inroads in different stages of the game and finished the ODIs as leading wicket-taker with 10 scalps in 5 matches, despite India losing four. The off-spinner had toiled hard during the off-season and reaping rewards. 

“I did a lot of single stump bowling, and focused on getting my loads up to find my rhythm, once I did that, it was all about using the variations right,” said the 24-year-old after the fourth ODI.

Former India cricketer and Railways coach Nooshin Al Khadeer, too, felt the changes she had made had helped her and the team. 

“When you are new in the circuit, things could go your way, but with years, teams tend to figure you out. It happens to every player and what's important is how to shape it up from there. Glad to see Deepti has worked on it,” said Nooshin, adding that the all-rounder has become smarter on when to use the variations.

It's not just the bowling that stood out as Deepti amassed 116 runs at 38.66 and a strike-rate of 80.55.

While the southpaw is predominantly a leg side player, it was evident that she had opened her stance a bit to focus on her off-side game during her unbeaten 69 in the third ODI against New Zealand. 

“Generally, I used to bat with a side-on stance. I worked on handling short balls and my off-side game as well and it's been helpful,” she said.

While Deepti got out early on Sunday in the warm-up match against South Africa, which India won by two runs, her role in maintaining the team combinations would be crucial. 

Nooshin felt that the ideal position for Deepti could be at three, but said that the all-rounder is capable of playing in any spot in the top five. 

"She is among the first five names at the top. She can bat anywhere, bowl with the new ball, in the middle and even in death. If Jhulan (Goswami) is the spearhead of the pace attack, Deepti along with Rajeshwari (Gayakwad) is heading India's spin bowling. She has the art of controlling the runs and purchasing wickets at same time," she added.

In the 2017 ODI World Cup where India reached the finals, Deepti made 216 runs and took 12 wickets. For India to replicate a similar performance this time, they need their premier all-rounder at her best, contributing the way she did against New Zealand.


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