Until a few years ago, Titas Sadhu would accompany her father Ranadeep to the Chinsurah Rajendra Smriti Sangha academy in West Bengal. While her dad would train the youngsters, Titas’ job was to help him in tallying scorecards. As her friends from the locality would sweat it out in the nets, young Titas would keenly observe them.
Back then, Titas was into swimming and did not dream of taking up cricket seriously. “But things changed suddenly. I remember there was a time when the swimming pool was closed for a few days and around that time, dad told me to visit the ground and play a bit of cricket. It was raining that evening, and I enjoyed those moments at the crease and there was no looking back,” Titas tells Sportstar.
She is currently in Mumbai with India’s U-19 women’s team and on Thursday, she claimed two wickets (2 for 19) and chipped in with 16 runs as her team defeated New Zealand U-19 by 30 runs to take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match T20 series.
With front-line medium pacer Hurley Gala rested for the series decider, Titas started the proceedings with the new ball after Soniya Medhia’s 38 and Gongadi Trisha’s 32 guided India U-19 to 145-8 in 20 overs. Defending a rather tricky total, Titas cleaned up New Zealand opener Anna Browning off the penultimate delivery of her second over and followed it up with a caught-behind of Paige Loggenberg. With Titas and Sonam Yadav (two for 18) tightening the noose, the visiting side could only reach 115-8 in 20 overs.
Having started playing cricket at the age of 13, Titas had to wait for her chance to break into the Bengal team. While she could not clear the trials in first attempt, Board examinations (standard X) forced her to miss out on the 2018-19 season. And with COVID-19 pandemic bringing things to a halt, Titas finally made it to the senior Bengal squad in the 2020-21 season. Just 16 then, Titas wasn’t expecting an opportunity to come her way so early, but the then Bengal women’s coach Shib Shankar Paul saw her at one of the training sessions and picked her for three practice games. “And, one fine day, I found my name in the senior squad and travelled to Rajkot. I was the youngest member of the team, and it was a completely new experience for me to be playing alongside Rumi di (Rumeli Dhar) and others. I was awestruck,” she says.
And it wasn’t a fairytale debut for Titas. Up against Uttarakhand, Titas had an abysmal outing. While Rumeli started the proceedings for Bengal with the new ball, Titas bowled the second over. “The first ball I bowled went for a wide and boundary. I looked off-colour on the field and did not perform well in the first two matches. Later I was dropped for the rest of the tournament,” Titas reminisces.
While she returned home heartbroken, Titas took things in her stride and performed well in the inter-district matches and in the Cricket Association of Bengal-affiliated tournaments. And those were enough for her to earn back a slot in the senior team. Throughout her journey, Rumeli - a former India fast bowler - has played the role of a mentor. “She helped me earn my debut. When I made it to the Bengal team for the first time, I had no clue about the set-up. I did not practice with them earlier and everything seemed to be new. But Rumi di ensured that I don’t feel out of place,” Titas says.
“Apart from learning the technical aspect of the game, what I have learned from Rumi di is the spirit. If you play under her, you will always want to win. Till the last ball, she wants to win. When I saw her for the first time, I was like, ‘Oh my god!’…”
It was a similar feeling when she caught up with her idol Jhulan Goswami for the first time. “Jhulan di was bowling in the nets at the CAB academy in Kalyani, and our coach Maco sir (Paul) called me and said that I should just observe her bowl. It was a surreal feeling to see a legend bowling tirelessly in the nets. After she was done with bowling, I asked her whether I was doing things righ,” Titas reminisces. “Jhulan di smiled and said, ‘ Kichhu bhabis na. Shawb thik ache… (don’t bother at all, everything is fine). That was the first time we spoke and those words encouraged me…”
Players usually make a gradual transition from U-19 to senior-level cricket, but Titas made her U-19 debut after playing for the Bengal senior team, and those experiences of sharing a dressing room with Jhulan and Rumeli have helped Titas.
“Playing for India U-19, I have realised that things won’t go your way everyday, but you have to take things in your stride. I did not bowl well in the first game, but then, I told myself that I need to bounce back and be confident,” Titas says. And with just a month-and-a-half left for the inaugural U-19 Women’s World Cup in South Africa, Titas wants to stay fresh and not think too much about the road ahead. “There will be pressure for sure, but you need to keep calm and handle things accordingly. You need to be fresh,” she says.
When she is not playing or training, Titas loves to read and enjoys spending time with her friends. “We have a closely knit group of friends and that’s why whenever we are not playing, we do a lot of masti together,” the youngster says.
When her dad - a state-level sprinter - took Titas to the academy years ago, little did she know that someday she would don the India colours. And now that an opportunity has come her way, she wants to make optimum use of it.
India women’s u-19 145/8 in 20 overs (Soniya Medhia 38, Gongadi Trisha 32; Kayley Knight 4-24) beat New Zealand women’s u-19 115/8 in 20 overs (Olivia Gain 40; Titas Sadhu 2-19, Sonam Yadav 2-18, Parshavi Chopra 2-15).
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