WPL 2024: From Baroda cricket to Women’s Premier League via Goa, Tarannum Pathan on course to living late father’s dream

Having dedicated over a decade to registering consistently commendable performances in the domestic scene, Tarannum, picked by Gujarat Giants for Rs. 10 lakh, feels this WPL call-up is vindication.

Published : Feb 22, 2024 13:52 IST , CHENNAI - 11 MINS READ

The Women’s Premier League (WPL) is a platform that has helped a number of cricketers to take a step closer to either global recognition, an India cap or, in some cases, both.

Take Mumbai Indians’ Saika Ishaque or Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Shreyanka Patil. Both promising talents at the domestic level were eventually catapulted into the Indian national side thanks to commendable performances in the inaugural season of the WPL, a turn of events Tarannum Pathan perhaps hopes will happen for her too.

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While 30-year-old Tarannum’s WPL journey is awaiting its start, the Adani Sportsline-owned Gujarat Giants player (picked in the auction for Rs. 10 lakh) has come a long way. Having dedicated over a decade to registering consistently commendable performances in the domestic scene, she feels this WPL call-up is vindication.

“I expected to be picked in the WPL last year, but we’ve always been practical about outcomes at home,” Tarannum told Sportstar.

“Last season, the auction was on February 13th, and this year, I was travelling to join the team on the same date. Looking back at how much life has changed in a year, all I can say is wow,” she added.

A family affair

For Tarannum, cricket is a gift her family gave her. She began playing the game as a 13-year-old with her father, brother and uncles doing all they could to support her ambitions.

“Cricket ‘ka kheeda’ runs in my family. My father, uncle, brother, all loved the game. There was a ground behind our house and I began playing there. When I was in class seven, one of my neighbours told my uncle that I have talent that should be nurtured. Back then, the only names we had heard of from the women’s game were those of Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami,” she narrates.

“As I grew older, my father and uncles stepped up to work towards making me a cricketer. My brother would play school tournaments and would take me along to bowl to his teammates.

“My grandfather was against me playing. But my grandmother, despite being someone with very conservative principles, supported me immensely. There was never a conversation about not being able to play because we are from a traditional Muslim family. Around my house too, so many women from my community have slowly taken up the game after seeing how far we’ve come,” she says.

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Tarannum’s father Naseer earned his wages through auto fares. When his daughter was getting into the game as a teenager, he would often give up valuable fares he could earn just so he could take his daughter to her coaching classes. Tarannum lost her father in 2020 to mouth cancer. She describes the months leading up to his demise as life-changing in more ways than one.

“The six months leading up to his demise were difficult and I saw how desperately he was trying to stay alive. It’s hard to not motivate yourself to keep going after that. It was my father’s dream for me to play cricket and don the Indian jersey some day. Whenever I step on to the field, his face is all I see. He’s done so much, I cannot take a step back anymore. Whatever happens I need to keep moving forward,” she says.

Building on positives

The women’s cricket ecosystem almost transformed overnight after India finished as runner-up in the 2017 ODI World Cup. The side’s performances, the recognition the women in blue received and the calls for more professionalism in the women’s vertical meant progress trickled through as many levels of the game as possible.

Tarannum believes the WPL takes that progress forward at a faster rate.

“Before, women cricketers struggled with finding sponsors, financial support, contracts. Any change would take years to find form but the 2017 World Cup changed everything.

“Now, there’s a new name emerging almost every other day. Saika and Shreyanka are all examples of this. The WPL is now a platform that the world has its eyes on and it’s not being done for the sake of it. The league is being run in the most professional way. Now, there are people pumping money into this sport. This is motivating aspiring players to also put money into their careers in seeking professional nutrition, fitness and medical support. Earlier, player food diets were extremely unscientific. Now, there’s a lot of awareness and resources available for people,” she says.

Tarannum has represented India A and was the first woman from Baroda to be picked for the national camp back in 2010. The off-spinner has toiled away year after year in the domestic circuit, with more than 200 wickets to her name across formats. Despite being a mainstay in the outfit and even captaining the side, Tarannum felt she wasn’t getting her due in the setup and moved to Goa last year.

“I never wanted to leave Baroda. Despite falling out of favour in terms of the selections, I would still keep following what the team did. It’s all about timing. I got a good offer from Goa. I spoke to my family about spending a year away in another set-up. Somehow, it ended up benefitting me as it all contributed to my selection in the WPL,” she explains.

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The cricket culture in Baroda and Goa are as different as chalk and cheese, a gap that allowed Tarannum to appreciate the resources she has always had access to.

“Goa is a state with a flourishing football scene. Cricket isn’t the main scene there. Baroda has a vibrant scene with a number of role models - be it Irfan and Yusuf Pathan, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Yastika Bhatia, Kiran More etc. It isn’t hard to find a source of inspiration.

“In Goa, Shikha Pandey is perhaps the biggest name and she’s inspiring players singlehandedly. It is commendable how almost all players travel from afar to make it to training early in then morning. Imagine the dedication required to wake up early, pack food and travel distances to turn up for the love of the game. It’s very inspiring. I also had a lot of support during my stint here,” she adds.

Cricket now brings Tarannum to Bengaluru and the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, a batting haven and a venue known for its passionate fanbase. Tarannum is no stranger to exploits with the bat, and is hoping to show what she can do at one of the most popular venues in the country.

“I love Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL and I am a huge Virat Kohli fan. I am excited to play in the team’s city. We’ve all seen the crowds chanting “RCB RCB” for the men’s game. I am waiting to see that for women’s cricket and hopefully even turn some of them into Gujarat Giants supporters,” she signs off.

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