Soumya Tiwari is a die-hard Virat Kohli fan. She admires the erstwhile India captain so much that her team-mates often call her ‘ apni Virat’.
Of course, that’s banter, but the young batter from Bhopal enjoys every bit of it. She dons the No. 18 jersey - taking a cue from her favourite cricketer - and when on the field, Soumya makes sure that she doesn’t allow the bowlers to breathe easy.
“Virat’s attitude inspires me. I admire the way he handles situations while playing under pressure,” Soumya, who made it to the India U-19 World Cup 2023 squad told Sportstar.
And the youngster admits that every time she watches Kohli bat, it helps her learn a thing or two. “I remember in one of our U-19 ZCA matches in Vijaywada, we were chasing 192 and we were 35 for five. From there, we went on to chase down the total, and throughout that game, I kept thinking about how would Virat handle such situations. It helped me immensely,” she said.
When she started playing cricket in 2016, Soumya did not know that she would take up the sport seriously. During her summer breaks, her elder sister Sakshi took her to Suresh Chenani, a noted local coach. But back then, Chenani’s academy did not have facilities for women cricketers, so Soumya had to make a few visits before the seasoned coach was convinced that she had it in her to play the sport at the international level.
“I started playing cricket at the age of 11 as a leisure activity during summer vacation. My sister took me to the local training centre and I liked playing the game. Initially, I thought it would just be restricted to the summer vacation, but my coach gave me a chance to train with U-14 boys and I took the opportunity,” she said.
For the first three years, she trained with boys and eventually caught the attention of the state selectors and made it to the Madhya Pradesh U-23 team at the age of 13. For Soumya, cricket runs in the family.
Her father Manish played local division cricket and always encouraged her daughter to pursue the sport.
“Dad has been my inspiration as he has always encouraged me to play the sport. I have learned from him how to tackle pressure situations. My family has always supported me. They have never forced me to do anything and have always backed me in pursuing my dreams,” Soumya, a commerce student of standard XII, said.
Earlier this year, in April, Soumya made her senior women’s debut for the state and has been an integral part of the India U-19 women’s team that will travel to South Africa for the inaugural Women’s U-19 World Cup in January.
“I am not thinking too much about the World Cup yet. I want to take it step by step. Every time I am getting an opportunity, I want to contribute and set a target so that it helps my team,” she said.
“When I go out to bat, I don’t think too much. I just focus on my game and try to grab as many opportunities as possible.”
This approach has helped her in the quadrangular series and against New Zealand and ahead of her first ICC event, Soumya wants to keep things simple and draw inspiration from her favourite cricketer - Virat Kohli.
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