Richa Ghosh had a promise to keep. When Smriti Mandhana walked back to the pavilion after scoring a magnificent 49-ball-79, India’s women’s team was still a distance away from chasing down Australia’s total of 187 in the second T20I.
Before leaving the crease, Smriti turned towards Richa and told her, “ khatam kar ke aana hai…” (You’ve to finish the game). Richa nodded and replied, “ haan, didi” (yes).
The 19-year-old kept her word and ensured the former’s effort was not in vain. Pairing with Devika Vaidya, Richa hit a flurry of sixes to take the game to a Super Over and eventually paved way for India’s victory.
In the Super Over, too, Richa started off with a huge six off debutant Heather Graham’s bowling. While she earned praise from teammates, Richa herself believes that it was her ‘best knock’.
“I think we executed our plans well. This was my best knock. Whenever I bat, I always think about how to help my team win a game. Smriti di [Mandhana] told me to finish the game and we did it,” Richa said on Tuesday, on the eve of the third T20I. “We were just following our plans and I was trying to get as many runs in the middle [overs] so that helped us to achieve the target in the end.”
Healy lauds Richa
Australia captain Alyssa Healy, too, had a word of appreciation for the young wicketkeeper-batter. Healy made it clear that Richa “has got the potential to be” one of the most lethal cricketers in the T20I format.
“She came over to the WBBL and probably did not have quite the impact as she is having in this series. It’s an interesting one for us, but the confidence that she is coming out and batting with, is probably a little terrifying for a lot of U-19 World Cup sides out there,” Healy said.
Richa featured in the Women’s Big Bash League for Hobart Hurricanes earlier this year and could only score 162 runs in 14 innings at an average of 12.46. She has improved her game immensely in this series and has emerged as one of the most talked-about batters in the lower middle-order. With scores of 36 and 26 not out, Richa has proved a point, and as Healy rightly points out, her inclusion in the U-19 World Cup will put the other teams on tenterhooks.
Focus on the series
Richa, who hails from Siliguri in West Bengal, however, does not want to think much about the U-19 T20 World Cup yet. Both Shafali Verma and Richa will be joining the U-19 camp in Bengaluru later this week and are likely to miss out on the last T20I against Australia. “We are only thinking about this series for now. Once we join the U-19 camp, we will focus on those things. It won’t be a problem to get used to that set-up because both Shafali and I have known them for a while,” she said.
A big fan of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Richa idolises the finishing skills of the former India captain and wishes to meet him someday. “I want to meet him, but haven’t had the opportunity to meet him yet. There have been times when he would leave early or maybe we would have a camp or something the next day. But I do wish to meet him someday.
“Since childhood, I have followed MSD - the finisher. The rest I have learned from my dad. Family and father helped me a lot and he would always accompany me for games. He could not play for long, so he backed me to chase my dreams,” Richa added.
During the COVID-19 induced lockdown, Richa had lost fitness, but over the last few months, she has worked extensively on it. “I had worked on my fitness as I gained weight during COVID times. I also worked on my shots while doing power hitting, but my focus is to bat till the last over,” she said.
While she admits that it is important to be ‘mentally strong’, Richa credits captain Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti for encouraging the players. “In every game, that was our thought process right from the beginning. Hari di [Harmanpreet] and Smriti di’s innings helps us on how to build on…”
Ever since breaking into the Indian team, things haven’t been smooth for Richa as she failed to cement her place in the side. Despite being part of the set-up for a while, she was left out of the Commonwealth Games. But overcoming all the odds, the stumper-batter has now become one of the major talking points of India’s women’s cricket.