Uma Chetry was barely a couple of years old when she started playing cricket at her residence in Bokakhat which comes under Assam’s Golaghat district.
While her elder siblings would play the sport on the kutcha roads of the village, she, too, would emulate them - albeit indoors.
Using a stick as a makeshift bat, Uma would send big round potatoes wheezing past unsuspecting family members as she hit fours and sixes at will. When she turned three, her mother Dipa bought her a plastic bat and a ball, and Uma made it a point to practice everyday.
“We soon realised that she is fond of cricket. She would play with the local boys of her age and often discuss a thing or two with her elder brothers,” Dipa tells Sportstar.
Back then, Dipa of course did not imagine that someday Uma would pursue the sport seriously and make it to the country’s national squad.
On Sunday evening, as Uma made it to the India senior women’s squad for its tour of Bangladesh, hard work and determination paid off for the Chetrys.
“It’s an incredible feeling to see your daughter making the State proud. Things were not easy for her, but with sheer determination, she continued chasing her dreams,” Dipa says.
Fighting against odds
Dipa, too, has a significant role to play in her daughter’s journey. With Uma’s father Lok Bahadur being a small-time farmer, there would be times when the family - Uma and her four brothers - would struggle to make ends meet.
But that wasn’t a deterrent for the young wicketkeeper-batter. Even though not many in the village took her decision of playing with boys in the right spirit, Dipa encouraged her daughter to follow her passion.
“She would play with boys from our locality and slowly she was fond of the sport. We knew our means were limited, but I wanted to make sure that she got all the support from us - the parents. I did not want her to stop playing just because she was a girl,” Dipa says. oon, Uma started training under local coaches - Raja Rahman and Mehboob Alam - and would travel far to train regularly.
During monsoon, Dipa would request her brother to pick up Uma from the training centre as it would often get late. “Though I wanted her to pursue cricket, I told her that she should not take her studies for granted,” the mother adds.
So, in the mornings, Uma would train for a while and then travel to Bokakhat Hindi High School, and once the school was over, she would again hit the ground, playing with the boys.
Uma makes the right noises
Around 2011, she caught the eye of Ajoy Sarma, the treasurer of Golaghat District Sports Association.
“We saw her play with boys, who were slightly older than her. But she looked quite determined and was very competitive on the field. We were quite impressed with her, and eventually, we provided her with all the support,” Sarma says.
Convinced that the youngster had enough potential, Sarma pushed her case and soon, Uma was on Assam Cricket Association’s radar.
By 2017, she was part of the Assam state team and went on to make every opportunity count. In the last domestic season, she scored 194 runs in six one-dayers, at an average of 32.33, whereas in five T20 innings, she scored 120 at a strike rate of 88.88. Her determined show earned Uma a spot in the India emerging team for the Emerging Asia Cup in Hong Kong.
In the recently-concluded tournament, which India won, the 20-year-old scored an unbeaten 16 in the first match, followed by a 22 in the next one. Behind the stumps, she was involved in four dismissals - including two stumpings.
“Her efforts have been incredible. Hailing from a lower middle-class family, it wasn’t easy to come so far. But she has proven that there’s no substitute to hard work,” Sarma says.
“No matter how difficult the situation is, one should not lose hope and that’s what Uma’s story tells us.”
Two of Uma’s brothers work as security guards in Bengaluru, while the other two live in Assam. But even now, the family struggles economically and just about runs the show.
But all those factors have not deterred the young stumper-batter. With the support of her mother, who pushed to break the barriers, Uma’s journey has just begun and she hopes to make every opportunity count. Onwards and upwards!
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