It’s a busy afternoon at the Mumbai Cricket Association’s Bandra-Kurla Complex facility. With the city witnessing a slight dip in temperature, several members of the club along with their families are here to enjoy a good meal at the plush restaurant, located inside the complex. The restaurant overlooks the lush green BKC cricket ground where the Indian and New Zealand Women’s U-19 teams are in action in the first of five scheduled T20s.
Riding on fast bowler Hurley Gala’s three-wicket haul (three for 18) and opener Soumya Tiwari’s unbeaten 52 off 33, India beat New Zealand by seven wickets. Attracted by the blue India colours, several kids accompanied by their parents, queue up at one corner of the pavilion for autographs, even though they are unsure about who the players are.
“ Didi, didi, autograph…” a kid tells Hurley, passing on a piece of paper as others flock the girls for selfies and signatures.
Hurley smiles and happily obliges. She then has a quick chat with her father, Tanmay and then returns to the dressing room to be with her teammates.
Born in a Gujarati family in 2006, Mumbai-based Hurley had a penchant for outdoor activities right from childhood and initially pursued skating.
“I was always interested in sports and my previous school, Utpal Shanghvi School, had skating, so that’s why I started it. I participated in a lot of competitions and developed a fondness for it,” Hurley tells Sportstar.
Her tryst with cricket began when an ankle injury forced her away from her rollerblades for a while.
“When I was recovering, I started playing cricket with my friends in the building and enjoyed it. Around that time, a regional newspaper organised a tournament in my society where I also participated. I enjoyed playing the game and was looking confident,” the 16-year-old said.
That’s when Hurley’s father got in touch with Ivan Rodrigues - a noted coach in the local cricket circuit and the father of India international Jemimah Rodrigues. She soon began training with Jemimah at the Negev Cricket Academy.
“Practising with Jemi is fun. She is full of energy on and off the field and training with her has actually helped. I started training under Ivan sir and slowly fell in love with the sport,” she says.
Three years ago, Ivan took her to the MIG Cricket Club in Bandra, where she started training under Prashant Shetty, who has played a key role in moulding talents like Jemimah, Prithvi Shaw among others.
“The best quality about her is the level of fitness,” Shetty says.
“I have never seen someone with such fitness and that’s her biggest strength. Over the years, she has improved immensely,” he adds.
Hurley represented Mumbai in the Senior Women’s T20 tournament and dismissed two India team regulars - Shafali Verma and Deepti Sharma.
“She was called up for the senior women’s team for Mumbai and that’s where she impressed everyone. That boosted her confidence and those wickets really motivated her to perform better. She has matured a lot as a fast bowler and the inclusion in the U-19 teams will only help her, going forward,” Shetty says.
During the recent quadrangular tournament, Hurley did not get much of an opportunity, but against New Zealand, she made the most of the opportunity, perhaps more crucially given what’s in store for her the Indian U-19 side in the next few months.
Under the watchful eyes of coach Nooshin Al Khadeer, the youngsters have started developing a positive mindset, evident in how the team restricted New Zealand to 85 for nine in 20 overs. Hurley struck in her opening over - removing Olivia Gain and Anna Browning - in a span of five deliveries. That set the tone for the team’s one-sided victory, but after an outing to remember, Hurley wants to keep the momentum going and focus on the future.
“I did not take too much pressure. The idea was simple - to follow the process and just implement whatever you have learned for the past few months. It is about remaining positive and just enjoying the game,” Hurley says.
When an injury forced her to quit skating, Hurley did not know that someday she would end up being a cricketer. And in this journey, there have been setbacks, but the youngster has learned it the hard way. “The last few years have taught me not to give up and even if one game goes bad, keep backing yourself, be strong…” she says.
After a winning start to the series, the team will have a day-off on Monday, before taking the field again on Tuesday for the second game. And on home turf, ‘ Mumbai chi mulgi’ Hurley will hope to keep contributing to the side’s success.