From gully cricket to the world cup, cricket lovers of India follow the game religiously, and all matches are taken very seriously. Almost like an all-year round festival, cricket is an unifying sentiment across citizens. Consequently, male cricketers have become really influential when it comes to the youth, and they are revered greatly by all.
On the other hand, much like any other professional field, gender disparity exists in this sport too. While men’s cricket is highly regarded, women’s cricket is dismissed by most as not worth a watch. Driven by this belief, most of us are oblivious to the many records broken by the exceptional cricketers in the Indian women’s cricket team.
Deepti Sharma, a professional cricketer who represents the Indian national Women’s cricket team is an all-rounder who is exceptional in the sport. She is a left-handed batswoman and right-arm off-spinner, who is ranked 4th currently.
Born in 1997, Deepti Sharma hails from Agra. At the young age of nine, she developed an interest in the game and used to pester her father and brother to take her to the ground to watch net practices or other matches. But her sports journey began when she was asked to throw the ball back into play, during her brother’s net practice.
Thrown from a distance of 50 metres, the ball directly hit the stumps and was noticed by then India’s national women’s team selector, Hemlata Kala. This acknowledgement from a former cricketer ignited the spark in Deepti to ditch the stands for the ground. Furthermore, Kala ensured that Deepti Sharma got the right exposure, and made her practice in the nets at the Railway Camps in Delhi and Allahabad. The talented teenager caught the eye of Rita Dey, former Indian batter and selector, who decided to mentor the all-rounder.
Although she had gained enough experience in her mid-teens, Deepti was always neglected and overlooked for the state selections. Formerly a medium-paced bowler, she had to switch to off-spin as recommended to her by her mentors and several selectors. This switch was no easy feat but she mastered the art with her hard work and dedication.
At the age of 17, Deepti Sharma made her international debut in 2014 at the Chinaswamy stadium in Bengaluru, playing against South Africa. Even though the team lost, Deepti recorded the second-best bowling figures for the country. Along with Poonam Raut, the duo gave a record opening partnership of 320 runs, being the first ever partnership in women’s ODI cricket history to cross the 300-mark. This also beat the standing men’s record of 286 at the time. This performance ensured her a place in the national team.
Two years later, she played her first T20 match in Sydney and the same year, she recorded her best ODI bowling figures when India played against Sri Lanka. Deepti Sharma was the youngest player to be a part of the Indian women’s team that played in England in the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017.
Shortly after, in 2018, Deepti Sharma was honoured with the Jagmohan Dalmiya Award for Best Domestic Senior Women’s Cricket by the BCCI. International recognition started pouring in soon after as she was selected to play for various leagues in the years that followed. Deepti was selected to play for the team Western Storm in the Kia Super League, a semi-professional women’s Twenty20 cricket competition in England and Wales operated by the England and Wales Cricket Board.
She was also chosen by London Spirit to play in the inaugural season of The Hundred, a professional franchise 100-ball cricket tournament involving eight men’s and women’s teams located in major cities across England and Wales. The Women’s Big Bash League is the Australian women’s domestic Twenty20 cricket competition and in 2021, Deepti Sharma played for the team Sydney Thunder. Being her first appearance in this tournament, she had an impressive outing.
In her own words, “The way I had played in the first match, till the last game we played, I think my performances were decent. The team’s outings were inconsistent, yes, as we had lost back-to-back games and then, suddenly, we made a comeback. I think my performance was good in all three departments and I would like to continue in a similar way in the next few games as well.”
She also made her test debut in June 2021 against England. Earlier this year, she was listed in the squad for 2022 Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand. Deepti Sharma is being considered to be a “bankable spin option” as she has recorded the highest score for an Indian in the ODIs.
Despite receiving many laurels, some of which have been stated above, Deepti Sharma has chosen to stay away from the limelight. Hemlata Kala, talking about the player, once said, “Deepti has been phenomenal with her consistency. I would rate her as the world’s best all-rounder. It has been a conscious effort from her to stay away from social media and just keep training hard. This is the reason she has been able to maintain her consistency.”
Deepti Sharma is vocal about the need for a women’s Indian Premier League. Launched in 2008, the IPL is currently running its 15th season and all these years, not once has there been any kind of acknowledgement about plans for including women to the league. India women cricket players have been breaking glass ceilings by not only winning tournaments, but also being a part of international leagues.
As someone who has broken and set new records, Deepti Sharma expresses the need for an equivalent of IPL for women, “Yes, it (women’s IPL) should definitely happen. Because there are so many leagues outside like the Big Bash and The Hundred. (Kia) Super League also used to take place earlier. All these leagues provide a much-needed platform for girls. We get more matches which help us groom better,”.
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