Asian Games glory just the beginning for India pacer Titas Sadhu
Her lethal spell of 4-1-6-3 in the Asian Games final would have reminded many of Goswami. Sadhu's three wickets, including that of Sri Lanka's captain Chamari Athapaththu, sunk the opposition
CHENNAI: September 24, 2022, was an emotional day for women's cricket fans. After almost 20 years of service, legendary pacer and Indian stalwart Jhulan Goswami bid adieu to the game she loved at the Lord's Cricket Ground. The Bengal pacer, inspired by the 1997 Women's World Cup final in Kolkata, left behind big shoes to fill.
Exactly a year from that day, over 9000 km away from the Home of Cricket, in China, another Bengal pacer -- Titas Sadhu -- made her debut for India in the Asian Games. 24 hours later, Sadhu rose to the occasion and took three wickets against Sri Lanka in the final, helping India secure their first gold medal in cricket at the continental event. Ask Sadhu about comparisons with Goswami and she shrugs it off immediately. "No way! She has played for 20 years, I am not even 20," the teenager told The New Indian Express before leaving for the Asian Games.
Even though she won't like that comparison, Sadhu has always looked up to the veteran. "I met her just the day before the announcement of the squad for the Asian Games. She told me to talk to the juniors. I said, didi, I am also a kid (laughs). She spoke with my coach saying that this year we have to groom her. She is going to be the Bengal player who plays for India. The next day, I got the India call-up," she remembered, her eyes lighting up.
On Monday, her lethal spell of 4-1-6-3 would have reminded many of Goswami. Sadhu's three wickets, including that of Sri Lanka's captain Chamari Athapaththu, sunk the opposition before they could take the game away. By the time she finished her quota of four overs, India were closing on the gold medal.
Even before making a statement with the senior team, Sadhu took the cricketing world by storm in the inaugural U19 Women's T20 World Cup in South Africa earlier this year. After missing out on an opportunity to bowl in the tournament opener, Sadhu was the only Indian pacer to play in all the remaining matches. With spinners doing the job for India, she was waiting for her opportunity. And it came at the most crucial time for her country, in the final against England.
"It's a fond memory. During the whole match, it felt like we were in control. We had the momentum with us in the final. I remember looking at the scoreboard in the 14th over of the first innings, and it was a sudden realisation that we were close to winning the World Cup. It was not a wish anymore."
She could soak in all of those emotions because at the end of the 14th over, England, the only undefeated side of that tournament, were struggling at 53 for seven. Sadhu had broken the back of that innings with the spell of her spell that read: 4-0-6-2. She won the Player of the Final in the first-ever U19 Women's World Cup. "Just before the night of the final, me and my coach were discussing the tournament as a whole. Everything has gone well so far. The icing on the cake would be the Player of the match medal in the final. And it happened the next day," she recounted later.
A fortnight after this historic accomplishment, in another first for women's cricket in India, Delhi Capitals picked the pacer at the Women's Premier League auction. A month later, she found herself rubbing shoulders with the likes of Meg Lanning, Marizanne Kapp, Jemimah Rodrigues, and Shikha Pandey. Suddenly, it was a baptism of fire.
"In the U19s, we are protected. When we went for WPL, there was no spoon-feeding. I looked at it as a learning experience. I didn’t get to play any matches in WPL. Initially, I was down about it. Especially, coming back from the highs of the U19 World Cup, and performing well there. I looked at it as a learning curve. I think the whole of WPL has taught me more about myself and my cricket than the World Cup."
Delhi Capitals, with Kapp and Pandey, was like a fast-bowling university for Sadhu. "Marizanne is someone different. I remember the day she took the fifer, she wasn't happy. Whatever she does, she is aware of her potential to the extent that she knows she could have done better. You can't be happy with whatever you do. If you start being happy with your results, you are losing the scope to improve in the next game," said Sadhu, acknowledging that passive learning from observations can also teach you a lot.
Capitals coach Jonathan Batty agreed. After their loss in the final against Mumbai Indians, he praised Sadhu. "She has learnt from Kapp, Pandey, and others. The sky is the limit for the youngster," he mentioned in the post-match interactions in Mumbai. Six months on, she has already proven him right.
Long before the buzz of the gold medal, or even before the excitement of WPL, BCCI had organised the Women's U19 T20 Challenger Trophy in Porvorim, Goa. In the lunch break between two matches on day 2, the staff at the GCA Academy Ground made a prophecy. "Ye pacer asa Bengal cha. Sure India khelnar." (This pacer from Bengal is definitely going to play for India.)
Ten months on, Sadhu has proven them right, but she might just go beyond that and the gold medal. And this could just be the beginning of a story about another special pacer from Bengal.