Like her idol, Soumya gears up for NZ challenge donning No 18 jersey for India

The Madhya Pradesh teenager has risen through the ranks rapidly in the last couple of years

Published: 21st November 2022 12:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st November 2022 10:50 AM   |  A+A-

Setting Short Goals To Pinnacle!: Soumya Tiwari and the India U19 side.

Setting Short Goals To Pinnacle!: Soumya Tiwari and the India U19 side.

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Less than a month ago, Soumya Tiwari was watching the famous six of Virat Kohli against Pakistan’s Haris Rauf down the ground at Melbourne in the men’s T20 World Cup. Fresh off the domestic T20 title-winning campaign, the Madhya Pradesh U19 captain was awed by the ridiculousness of the shot. Perhaps, even more so than the rest of the world as she had grown up idolising Kohli. To an extent, where she found herself emulating that shot in the nets on the very next day.

Over the next few weeks, Soumya has shone for India A U19 in the quadrangular series featuring India B, West Indies and Sri Lanka. Asked to open in the middle of the tournament, Soumya smashed an unbeaten 54-ball 65 in a must-win game against Sri Lanka. And now, she has been named vice-captain of the India U19 side that will take on New Zealand in a five-match T20I series in Mumbai from November 27. What makes it even more special is that she will be donning the No. 18 jersey in her first assignment for India U19 just like her idol.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I have never thought about being the vice-captain of the Indian team,” Soumya told this daily. “It’s like a dream come true. I can’t even imagine what it was like when I was wearing the jersey (during the quadrangular series). Every time I see it, I get goosebumps,” added Soumya.

She takes inspiration from the two famous No 18s of Indian cricket — Kohli and Smriti Mandhana — and Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur. For her, losing feels like a crime. That’s the attitude she has developed from a very young age. She wants to emulate the trio, and follow an aggressive approach at every step of her way on the field.  It’s the drive towards perfection that has taken the teenager this far in a journey that began in 2016.

Back then, it was her sister Sakshi who first watched Soumya play in the neighbourhood and took her to Suresh Chenani at the Arera Cricket Academy, Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh). However, things didn't go well initially. At that point, Chenani did not have any girls at the academy. And it took some repetitive visits and convincing from the sisters to get Soumya admitted.

However, she did not take long to get the reputed coach’s attention. Chenani was impressed by her fielding when he played her in an inter-academy boys game two months after she joined the academy. “Looking at the way she played in that match, I felt there is something special about her and if guided well, she could do wonders,” Chenani told this daily.

In the first three years, she had to train with boys as there were no girls in the academy. “Until U-15, she was playing with the boys. And the discipline in the academy helped her a lot. The boys who trained there took care of her and helped her as well,” said Manish Tiwari, Soumya’s dad. She has made rapid strides in age-group cricket, getting called up for the Madhya Pradesh U-23 team when she was 13. She went on to make her senior women’s debut in April 2022. But it is the U19 circuit where she has broken ground in the last couple of years.

Such has been her growth that the academies that were happy to let her play with the boys in the inter-academy tournaments earlier are now arguing for her to not take part. “Now, she plays only inter-academy friendly matches and practice games and not in the boys' tournaments as she used to,” says Chenani. “The kid is a fighter. The good thing about her is that she never gets distracted from her goals. She is very focused, always determined to learn and her discipline stands apart,” he added.

One of the things that helped Soumya along the way is the short goals she has set for herself. Whether it was the U19 T20s, or Challengers, or Quadrangular, she has taken one series at a time despite the thought of representing India in a World Cup in the back of her mind. And now, she wants to concentrate on bilaterals against New Zealand. “They are among the top teams and it will definitely help. I feel like if I think about the World Cup now, I will put too much pressure on the World Cup. So, right now, I am focusing on doing well against New Zealand,” she said.

Soumya might have worn the blue jersey during the quadrangular series. But when she takes the field as India U19's vice-captain next week, she will definitely have butterflies in her stomach. After all, the dream that she had as an 11-year-old falling in love with the sport has finally come true.

India Matters


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