“My competition is against none other than me. Every day I compete with myself in order to perform better than I was yesterday.” Says Mouchaity Debnath, one of the senior members of Tripura Women Cricket team who has also the led her state in previous occasion. Highest scorer for her team, Debnath, with her skills in wicket keeping has helped her state gain a respectable place in the Plate Group, in Senior Women One Day Domestic last year. Constable by profession, in a chat with Female Cricket, Debnath spoke about her early journey, her goals and the hardship she faced. As the representative of many girls of her state, she also expressed her views about the changing contour of the game and the prospective nature of it.
Excerpts from the Interview
A mere formality to start with, what age did you start playing cricket?
I used to play from a very young age. I attended 3 Yoga Nationals till 2007. Being an ardent cricket fan, my brother and father always encouraged me and they were my companions in my early days.
What made you take up cricket as a profession?
In 2007, for the first time a trial was conducted for the state team selection. I attended the trial and fortunately got the call for the state team. It all began there. The club now I play for is called ‘Cricket Anuragi’ (Lover of Cricket in Bengali). I started to pay more attention to cricket. And eventually, in 2007 was when I attended Yoga nationals.
Back then, how was the situation when you took up cricket? Did the society encourage girls in cricket?
Actually, it wasn’t favorable at all for the women cricketers, even after the state team was formed. Being a ‘male-dominated game’ or the game of ‘masculinity,’ the families were not very supportive of this idea. Though my family was there to hold my back, the society had other opinions – “meyera ki cricket khelbe (girls don’t play cricket)” was the common call everywhere. Being new to the world of women’s cricket, we lacked the experience and were behind in terms of facilities and infrastructure. There were fewer clubs back then which coached and encouraged female cricketers.
So has the situation changed now, especially in Tripura?
It is a continuous process, I feel. Things have improved a lot and there’s huge scope for improvement. Having said that, the present scenario of the girls have changed to better. BCCI is giving us more attention. More facilities and infrastructure are introduced in the game. We have been given access to NCA and per match remuneration has increased. It’s important you know. (smiles). When you come from a middle class family and have no alternate source of income, match fees is what helps you make the ends meet. Besides, accessibility to grounds and gyms have helped all of us improve as a cricketer. More and more girls are now opting to pursue cricket and some of them are great prospects.
Do you think that success in WWC’2017 has made female cricket more popular in India?
There is no denial in the fact that Women’s Cricket World Cup 2017 has helped women’s cricket to expand its horizon in many ways. But again, you can’t pinpoint a particular situation from where it all began. There were already few symptoms of this change but was propelled further by the success of our girls at World Cup.
How you do look at your journey so far?
Full of ups and downs. After being selected for the state team, I got selected for the zonal team as well and in 2013, I got the opportunity to play for the India U- 19 team. Then I was forced to leave cricket for a year, coming back again to get selected as the captain for the state for 2016/17 senior domestic tournament. I am playing for the state since the age of 13.
(pause) I still posses the dream to wear the national color someday.
Family and coaches have played a special role in shaping up your career. Tell us about their contributions.
My family supports me in every possible way. It’s because of my father and brother, I started playing cricket and they are my biggest supporters. When I took up serious cricket, my coaches in the club namely Subodh Das and Tapan Sinha helped me a lot. I consider myself lucky to play under the watchful eyes of Syamal Das and Rajat Kanti Sanyal in the camps. These people with all their support and experience shaped me a lot, both as a cricketer and as a human being.
Tell us about your favorite moment from your decade-long journey.
There are many. In 2012/13 in a match against Jharkhand, I scored 50+ runs and with 3 stumping and 2 catches my performance behind the wicket was good too. So after the game, match-referee came to me and congratulated me and encouraged me. The referee compared me with Anju Jain ma’am, which was like a great honor. We won that match. It was crucial for us to win that tournament. Last year we performed really well, we defeated the teams like Rajasthan and Bengal. We were on the verge to qualify for the semi finals. Those victories were pleasing too.
You are constable in Tripura Police. Tell us more about that.
(laughs). It was 2014. I was in my first year Under-Graduate course. There was advertising regarding the recruitment in Tripura Police. I gave the examination and eventually got selected. Then I was required to undergo a two year compulsory police training. I was in dilemma whether to discontinue cricket or not. My father insisted to undergo the training. That was the reason I had to take break from cricket. After the training was done, I was back to cricket.
Did you get any special facilities or leave from your work to play cricket for the state or East Zone?
Not much. I used to practice early in the morning and then continued with my duty. I didn’t get much leave apart from CL or EL. When I went to represent my state, my holidays were deducted. But whenever I played well and scored runs for the team, my colleagues always cheered me. Sometimes there were also thoughts whether to leave the job or not. But the hardships I went through, from day to day life, it eventually helped me fuel my desire to play for the country.
Do you have any memory of your first match for the state?
I don’t remember the exact details, but what I remember is that it was against Bengal and I became a victim of Jhulan Di. ( Jhulan Goswami)
How do you look at the progress of your state team in recent times?
We have come a long way. As I have mentioned earlier, situation is somewhere or the other changing for the better and in the favor of the girls. We have performed well last season. If we had won the last match of the league, we would have qualified for the semi finals. But we need to keep rolling and of course we need to change our mentality when we are facing better teams. It’s all in the mind. We need to overcome our inner-fear and play the game in the positive manner. In the bigger arena apart from the skills it’s the right approach and the mental toughness that matters the most.
It is said that players from the West get more recognition when a place gets vacant in the national colors. Your views.
Not always like that. Yes as the power construction of the cricket had shifted to the west they get a little bit of advantage but if one performs consistently well in state, zone and even in the challenger trophy, she will be regarded. And as we play in the plate group(s), its bit more difficult for players from East. We need to work hard and more consistently.
When wicket-keepers like Tania Bhatia and Sushma Verma have established themselves in the team, how difficult it will be for you to find the spot in the national squad?
It’s difficult, no doubt about that. But if you look at the present scenario, If I become more consistent with bat as well as in terms of keeping, I would be a name to reckon with.
Favourite Cricketer: Mithali Raj
A bowler you want to face: Ellyse Perry
Most Destructive cricketer in recent times: Deepti Sharma
If not a cricketer: Engineer
Wicket Keeper you idolize: MS Dhoni