The first woman cricketer from Jharkhand to play for India, she is known for her express pace and her ability to hit the bull’s eye. Rubbing shoulders with India’s one of the best bowlers, Jhulan Goswami, she grew as a player and added to her repertoire. She is known to have clean bowled world’s most prolific ODI player, Mithali Raj, in a domestic game, and since then she has attracted attention. Playing for Indian Railways first and then making her debut for India, this talented fast bowler from Jharkhand is unequivocally an anomaly.
We are talking about Shubhlakshmi Sharma, 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 30-year old cricketer from Jharkhand.
1. Did you always want to become a fast bowler?
When I used to play with my brothers and friends in my colony, I was always asked to bowl. I hardly got a chance to bat. So, maybe it was bowling that came naturally to me. And yes, from quite a young age, I used to like watching Brett Lee bowl. I tried to imitate his action but to no avail (smiles). I also looked up to Jhulan di and wanted to emulate her action, but it was too good for me, I guess.
2. Tell us about your early days in cricket.
Since my school days, I was active in sports. I played badminton and volleyball for the school. Back then we had no girls’ cricket. One fine year when we had an inter-school girls cricket tournament, at that time, my school, for the first time, took interest in the sport. Girls who played different sports were gathered and a cricket team was formed to participate in the inter-school competition. Since I was an active sportsperson, I found a place in the school cricket team. I enjoyed playing cricket more than badminton and volleyball (smiles).
Frankly speaking, my father wanted me to focus more on academics than sports, but thanks to my school sports teachers, who came home, and convinced my father to allow me to play. Then in 2006, I completed my schooling and started to take a keen interest in cricket. For my further education, I joined college, and it was on the basis of my cricketing skills I was awarded an admission. During my college days, I participated in various inter collegiate cricket tournaments.
3. After completing your college, you were selected by Eastern Railways. Tell us about that.
One of my friends back then told me about the selection trials that were being conducted by Eastern Railways. I was barely 17 then, and I felt there was no harm in trying my luck. I went for the trials and to my delight, I was picked up to play for the Eastern Railways. I was posted in Kolkata. Initially, I was scared to stay alone. So my brother stayed with me for a year till 2009 and then I managed on my own.
4. You were later picked up to play for Indian Railways. How did that feel?
In 2010, I attended the ZCA camp, which helped me a lot in terms of my batting, bowling, and fitness. That season I had a good performance with the ball. My performance was duly recognized and I was promoted to play for the Indian Railways. Typically, the players who play for India automatically make their way into the Indian Railways squad, but for me, it was otherwise.
I was an anomaly. It was a wonderful feeling to play alongside Amita Sharma and Rumeli Dhar, both quality fast bowlers. They helped me a lot and provided a lot of guidance. Playing for Indian Railways I was once given the opportunity to open the bowling in a T20 match. I grabbed that opportunity with both hands, and in the consequent T20s, I was given the responsibility of opening the bowling.
5. You made your India debut against West Indies in 2012. Did you expect the India call?
Honestly, I was expecting to be picked up for India that year. I had a wonderful domestic season with Indian Railways and I was hopeful of getting selected. I remember the day when I got the call from BCCI. I was in Bangalore for India camp. As soon as I heard the good news on the phone, my joy knew no bounds. I was very excited. My dream to play for the country had come true.
6. You featured in the last Test that India Women ever played in 2014. How does that feel?
I vividly remember that Test match which we played against England in 2014. There were eight debutants and I was one of them. When my name was announced in the playing XI, I was so excited that as if I was making my India debut again. The cherry on the cake was we won the game. Winning a Test match against England in its own backyard was a great feat.
7. Have there been any changes in the perception about women’s cricket after India featured in the finals of 2017 World Cup?
Yes, I feel there are a few changes in the perception of women’s cricket. For instance, there are many new cricket coaching academies for girls that have come up in Kolkata. Also, people have started following women’s cricket more since 2017 and some of our women cricketers have become household names.
8. What is the one tip that you would give to the upcoming fast bowlers?
Try to be as fit as possible. Concentrate on your run up because that is what will help you to have a smooth bowling action.
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This article was transcribed by Juili Ballal.