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The intense conviction of Richa Ghosh

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Last updated on 10 Feb 2023 | 02:07 PM
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The intense conviction of Richa Ghosh

After winning the world at the U-19 level, its time for the teen prodigy to shine at the T20 World Cup in South Africa

Let’s begin how all interesting things begin - with a story! 

The 47,000 human beings at the DY Patil Stadium were stunned into silence. A 19-year-old Richa Ghosh at the non-striker was also one of them. 

Smriti Mandhana was playing the mammoth 188-run chase like a dream. But after making 79 runs in 49 balls, she played one straight at her stumps. The woodwork behind her was shattered, and so was the dream of a record chase. India still needed 40 runs in 21 balls. 

All Smriti could say to Richa as she went past her on the way to the dugout was “khatam karke aana” (finish it and come). All Richa said were just two words - “Ha Didi” (Yes, sister). 

Smriti would later reveal in a video for BCCI TV, that there was something so intensely convincing about the way Richa said those two words, that she believed that the 19-year-old would end up doing what she hadn’t done in her entire life yet - actually finish the game!

Richa ended up with 26* off 13 with 3 sixes. The match ended in a tie. She had taken her team to the finish line. But couldn’t cross it. 

Later she would come back for the super over and hit another six, and India defeated the mighty Aussies in front of a record crowd for a women’s game. That “Ha Didi” wasn’t a lie after all. 

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Richa Ghosh of Siliguri, West Bengal isn’t your ordinary Indian women’s cricketer. She can keep wickets, bat, and also bowl medium pace. At 11 she made the U-19 Bengal team, and at 12, the U-23 team. At 16 she played the World Cup final for India in front of 86,124 people at the MCG. 

Reema Malhotra, a former Indian cricketer, and Broadcaster, recalls a Delhi vs Bengal T20 match for the Cricket Monthly where Richa showed what a prodigy she is. She came in with Bengal at 18-4, and seeing that her favored leg side was packed with fielders by Reema who was aware of her strengths, she amazingly made room against the spinners and played superb inside-out shots over the cover region. She hammered 63 in just 36 balls, paving to Bengal’s stunning comeback to clinch the game. After the match, Reema was further amazed by the youngster’s level of attention to detail when she saw her practicing sweep shots in the net. 

All these instances and happenings in Richa’s cricket career reflect an excellent game sense in someone so young. Her prodigious skills are backed up by a determined, sincere, and thoughtful head on her teenage shoulders. 

Since her debut in WT20Is in February 2020, she has scored with a strike rate of 134.27, which is the joint highest in the world. The importance of her six-hitting prowess couldn’t be stated with more eminence, especially considering the fact that she bats in the lower middle order for the Indian team, facing most of her deliveries during the middle and death overs. In both these phases of the game, as shown by the brilliant Hypocaust in the graphic below, the Indian team is outscored by opposition like Australia and England.

Considering the same in mind, and the fact that the T20 WC starts today, India should look to micromanage her entry points in the batting order, as she can accelerate at speeds that can completely turn the tide in India’s favor. In a recent warmup game against Bangladesh ahead of this big event, Richa hit 6 sixes in her last 10 balls of the innings and finished with 91* off 56 balls. In her first 32 balls, she only scored 24 runs. In the next 24 balls, she scored 67. 

This is a unique skill set that only Richa possesses in this Indian team, and it would be a travesty to her talent if she’s wasted as only a death-over hitter. India have already suffered the consequences of not including her in the side that went to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, where they failed to finish the game and ended up losing the gold medal to Australia by 9 runs. They had to satisfy themselves with silver when gold was almost a surety.

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Richa didn’t get silver at Birmingham, but she struck gold with the U-19 India side that won the inaugural women’s U-19 World Cup in South Africa. Though her performance was disappointingly sedate by her standards, she has now spent enough time in South Africa and is well-versed with the conditions. Moreover, by going the distance and actually winning a global ICC tournament that was followed by an unprecedented reception by the BCCI, Richa carries the confidence of being a World Cup winner. This T20 World Cup is the moment to shine for this 19-year-old from Siliguri.

She just needs to say “Ha Didi” and finish what is asked of her. We know she means what she says. 

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