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Titas Sadhu - A star is born in Asian Games

Last updated on 26 Sep 2023 | 05:41 AM
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Titas Sadhu - A star is born in Asian Games

The seamer impressed with a three-wicket haul in the final of the Asian Games, where India defeated Sri Lanka to win the gold medal

It was almost as if someone had dropped a day five pitch from Feroz Shah Kotla in Hangzhou, China. The ball was exploding off the pitch, with a puff of dust rising every time the ball fell on the 22-yard strip. Spinners were turning the ball square from a full length, and batters stood helplessly, their bats dangling like a loose pendulum. It wasn’t a pitch for fast bowlers, or batters for that matter. Spin was meant to reign over it, and it did for the most part until an 18-year-old pacer from West Bengal bowled her first ball. 

Titas Sadhu to Anushka Sanjeewani, out caught by Harmanpreet Kaur. The ball fell on a slightly wide line at a fullish length, and the batter could not clear the infield as she went for a big hit. 

Two balls later - a good length delivery, jagged back in after it fell on the seam, and Vishmi Gunaratne was clean bowled! Sadhu ended her first over with a double-wicket maiden. She would finish her four-over spell with three wickets for only six runs

Yes, it was a hard pitch to hit through the line. And yes, with the upper surface of the pitch disturbing upon impact, the ball would move if it fell on the pitch. But lengths were extremely crucial, as balls that were too full or short were easy for the Sri Lankan batters to navigate. Most of her deliveries fell in the 5-7 metre range where the batter was forced to play at it. That was the right length and strategy on a helpful pitch. 

Titas knew all that. She had the composure not to get overexcited by the movement off the seam and focus on her lengths and lines. The key was to make the batters think that they had to play the shot, and the teenage pacer was successful in doing that. It showed that apart from having the raw skills, Sadhu has a good head on her shoulders to asses the conditions, decide her plan accordingly, and then have the confidence to stick to her plans despite the temptation to try a bit harder to make things happen. 

One may think that with such readiness in her salad days, Sadhu might have been a natural at cricket since childhood. 

However, that wasn’t the case; she preferred swimming over cricket. It took time for her to fall in love with the game, and she started cricket at 13, an age at which the likes of Jemimah Rodrigues and Richa Ghosh were already playing in age group tournaments. 

She only made it to the senior Bengal women’s side in 2020-21, when cricket resumed after the pandemic. She had a horror debut season and was dropped only after two games. She had to earn her spot back in the side after performing at the inter-district level and other Cricket Association of Bengal affiliated tournaments. After that, she was part of the India U-19 team that went on to win the World Cup earlier this year in South Africa and also the Emerging Asia Cup. 

Her rise is a testament to her discipline and resilience. Her elite temperament was further revealed when she put up a brilliant performance in the finals of the U-19 World Cup against England, where she picked up two wickets for just six runs.

Before Titas impressed one and all, Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues put on a spirited batting display on a pitch where no other batter could last long. Mandhana dialled down her naturally aggressive batting style, played along with the turn for most of her 45-ball innings, and ended up as the highest scorer of the game with 46 runs.

Meanwhile, Rodrigues played at her usual tempo despite the unfavourable conditions and struck five crisp boundaries in her 40-ball 42, which allowed India to post a total that required Sri Lanka to score at almost run a ball. 

That was always going to be tough, but initially, spinners Deepti Sharma and Rajeshwari Gayakwad went for runs in their first spells, giving India a scare. However, it was a rare day where the pacers outshined the spinners on a turning track. Apart from the three wickets that Sadhu picked, Pooja Vastrakar also chipped in by getting Nilakshi de Silva, who was playing well. Gayakwad took the key wicket of Chamari Athapaththu. 

India won their first-ever gold medal in cricket in a multi-sport event yesterday, and the star that shone the brightest in that victory was a teenage pace bowler. This team has had a poor history of managing their fast bowling talent, as the likes of Shikha Pandey and many others continue to be neglected by the selectors and team management for inexplicable reasons. There are no press conferences to talk about these issues. 

So, it’s only natural that we worry about how India will handle someone like Titas, who has excelled so early in her career. Comparisons with Jhulan Goswami are only natural at this point, as Titas is also from Bengal, but Jhulan was always trusted by her team and given the chance to fail. One can only hope that the same support and care is assured for Titas, the newest star of Indian women’s cricket. 

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