A wife, a mother, and a cricketer, how does she manage it all? Hailing from a small village in Delhi, she started playing cricket at the state level in 2004. Gradually her prolific performance in the domestic circuit was awarded a national call as she made her India debut in 2011. Prior to playing for India, she got married, which did not deter her from pursuing her passion.
In 2014, she delivered a baby boy, and yet again, she refused to go to the non-striker’s end. After a one-year break, she was back in 2015, and since then has been making headlines in the domestic circuit. There is seldom any doubt that she has been a source of inspiration to not only young and budding women cricketers but also to veterans to continue playing the sport for the longest possible time.
We are talking about Neha Tanwar, who graced the Female Cricket feature Cricket with Queens, before the outbreak of COVID-19. During the episode, Female Cricket’s Vishal Yadav engaged in a heartfelt tête-à-tête with the 33-year old cricketer from Delhi.
Excerpts from the Interview
1. You played your domestic cricket for Delhi for quite some time before you got the India call. How did you feel when you were selected for India?
I played for Delhi U-19 and then senior team, before getting picked up for Challenger Trophy in 2010-11. I had a good tournament and I was expecting an India call. Fortunately, I was selected among the 20 probables that would play for India. Out of those 20, 15 were selected for the home series against West Indies and I was extremely happy to hear my name. The first thing that I did was I called up my coaches Dinesh sir and Tarak Sinha sir to break the news. After sharing my happiness with my coaches, I called my father, and his joy knew no bounds upon hearing the news. Soon my entire village came to know about it.
2. Tell us about your debut match.
It was a home series against West Indies. My parents, relatives, and my entire village were excited to see me play for India. The match was going to be televised and I was later told by my parents that many people had gathered at my home to watch me play. On my debut, I went out to open the batting. Honestly, I was very nervous as I took the stance. I was just praying to God that just let me survive the first ball. To my surprise, I scored a boundary of the very first ball that I faced in international cricket.
3. Rewinding a bit, in 2010 you got engaged and in 2011 you were married. Was marriage on cards? Did you expect all these?
(Smiles) Back in 2010, I was not at all ready for marriage. Marriage was completely out of my purview. However, my parents were actively groom-hunting for me while I was busy playing cricket. That year I had made it to the India probables camp and my next aim was to play for India. However, when I came back home from the camp, I was taken by surprise, as my father asked me to get ready as we were going to meet my potential husband.
At that time, I tried to convince my father that I was not ready. I wanted to play for India first. A few days after meeting the boy, my father announced that there is a small function at our home. Little did I know that it was going to be my engagement ceremony. On December 25, 2010, I was engaged. I didn’t even have a proper traditional outfit for the function (smiles). Rituraj (my husband) called me after the engagement and asked if I was fine. I just told him that I want to continue playing cricket and in return, he assured me that there will be no hindrance.
A few days later, my father told me that the wedding date has been fixed to March 9, 2011. I was taken by surprise yet again because I did not expect to get married so soon. Just to delay the marriage, I told a white lie to my father that around that time I have my cricket tournaments. I was hoping that my father would postpone the wedding, instead, he preponed it to February 9, 2011 (laughs).
4. How were things after marriage?
Honestly, I feel blessed to have such a wonderful family. My husband and my in-laws are very supportive. My mother-in-law is just like my mother. She encourages me to pursue my dream of playing cricket.
5. In October 2014, you gave birth to a baby boy and in November 2015 you were back on the field playing cricket for Delhi. Tell us about this unbelievable one-year journey.
In 2014 I had decided that it will be my last season and I would hang up my boots. I had almost made up my mind that I will concentrate on my family life. The very same year, I got pregnant and my otherwise extravagant physically active life came to a standstill. I started putting on weight and after my delivery, I was weighing 82 kg. During the period when I was at home I was badly missing cricket. I discussed the same with my husband and he, being very supportive right from the start, told me that I can continue playing post my delivery.
His words of assurance were nothing less than music to my ears. So after my delivery, the first thing that I had to do is lose weight. I had put on 20 kg. After six months of my delivery, I started walking. Three months later, I started exercising. One of my friends helped me during this time.
After many months when I picked up the bat, I was unable to even touch the ball with the bat. I used to get frustrated at times and it was hard for me to accept the reality.
Instead of getting bogged down, I came out strong and worked very hard to getting back to normal. My hard work was rewarded as in November 2015 I was picked up to play for Delhi.
6. How did your teammates and players from other teams react to this?
I remember one of the matches when we were playing against Hyderabad. In that match, Gouher Sultana, who was playing for Hyderabad, came up to me and asked me where I was last year. At that time, I told her that last year I delivered a baby. She was shocked and refused to believe it.
When I showed her the pictures of my baby, she believed (smiles). Also, Jhulan di appreciated me for making a comeback and got a picture clicked with me (smiles).
7. You had an ordinary season in 2015, but in 2016 you had some wonderful performances. Tell us about that.
I made my comeback in 2015 but I had a bad season. I hardly scored any runs. I thought I would get dropped but fortunately, I was picked up for the Delhi team again in 2016. Though I was not a part of playing XI for the first two matches of the season, I thought to myself that whenever I get the opportunity I will give my best. I got a chance in the third match. We were playing against Baroda and I top-scored with a 75. After that, there was no looking back. I scored plenty of runs in the remaining matches and ended up as the fourth-highest run-getter, despite not playing the first two matches.
8. Last year, you were picked up in the Indian Railways side. How did you feel?
It feels great to be a part of the Indian Railways team. Most of the players in the team are Indian players and it feels good to be among some of the best players in the country.
9. What is your message to the young and budding women cricketers?
Never give up, if you want to achieve something in your life, continue working towards it, with utmost discipline and determination.
Watch the Full Episode of Neha Tanwar on our YouTube Channel:
Part 1: Click here
Part 2: Click here
I am a former cricketer having represented Mumbai University at All India University level. I was a part of MCA probables for the U-19 and U-23 age group. I have been an avid cricket writer for the last five years. Currently I am pursuing my Ph.D from IIT Bombay.