Gullies have always been the medium between talent and professional platforms, and cricket in its truest forms has always flourished in gullies. Coming from the gullies of Bengal, is Tanusree Sarkar. The Right-handed batter who started her professional career at the age of 13 and slowly earned a name that is soon to don the blue jersey! Sarkar began her career as a medium pacer and eventually developed her skills as a batter is now an extremely talented and a regular name in the India A and other leading domestic tournaments. Born on 5th September, 1998 in Bengal, Sarkar recently marked her presence in the domestic segment with a stunning knock of 81* against Baroda alongside Deepti Sharma.
Female Cricket brings to you a super exciting and inspiring journey of this young batter who is sure to make her debut for India with the talent and determination that she possesses!
In an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Team Female Cricket, Sarkar takes us through her cricketing days, her success mantra and a sneak peek into the personal and professional life of Tanusree Sarkar!
Some excerpts from the interview:
1. Take us down the memory lane, your initial days and how cricket happened?
It all began with gully cricket with the boys in the neighborhood, at the age of 13 I joined an academy and within a year itself I got promoted to play for Bengal’s U-19 team. I had joined Yooger Pratik after which I got to play for the Bengal U-19 team and so began my professional career.
2. Were you always into sports or was it only cricket that fascinated you?
When I used to play gully cricket, I also used to play football and volleyball. So I was always involved in some or the other sport. But cricket always had a special place and always fascinated me more than anything else and that is why cricket is what I ultimately chose!
3. Were your parents always supportive regarding this career choice of yours?
No, my mother was not really happy with that decision initially so even got scolded a lot because we all used to play till very late and so she was never really supportive of that initially. When I told her about me joining the practice, she did not really react to it or opposed it because she just wanted me not to compromise with my studies. But whenever I got bad results, she used to tell me that we will not let you play cricket and attend practices if this keeps happening!
But eventually, when she heard from people that I play well, she gave in and so even she understood how much I love cricket and that I am really capable of doing well so then eventually became supportive.
4. Who has been your greatest support over the years?
My father and my grandmother have been my greatest support system. They have always supported me throughout my career.
5. Which is your most favourite cricket memory so far in your career?
Every innings is special, but one match I will always cherish is the recent partnership of 171 with Deepti Sharma in a recent match against Baroda in the senior women’s one day league. Deepti scored a brilliant hundred and this was our first ever huge partnership together In any domestic leagues so it will always hold a very special place in my heart, moreover we even won that match by a great margin.
6. Were you always a batter for the side or was there a twist for you?
I initially started off as a medium pacer in the team for three years and later even gave a hand to off-spin in 2014. But once I scored a fifty in the practice match and then I realized that I can bat well and so eventually became a batter.
7. You were affected by a shoulder injury in 2015, what was its impact on your game and career as a whole?
It did affect me because I even played with that injury so it actually became worse, moreover I could not play the senior league tournament as well but eventually I started playing the practice matches so the comeback came quite early. It did affect but not that hugely.
8. How important is the role of an All-Rounder in a team?
The role of an All-Rounder is actually very crucial in the team as you can then contribute in various areas. There are days when you do not bat well, so that day you can contribute with your bowling. And if one fails to deliver in both, they can still field well, save runs, effect run outs and contribute greatly for the team.
9. How was your experience with the senior players like Jhulan Goswami and Smriti Mandhana, having played a lot with them?
The first time I played against Jhulan Goswami, she was my opponent in the Bengal league. She always talks to us about believing in ourselves, she watches our game closely and guides us a lot. Also, how to stay positive at all times, how to conduct oneself before matches. She even tells me to focus a lot on my bowling as it is extremely crucial and I even bowl quite regularly.
About Smriti Mandhana, she is the calm and silent one. She certainly wants the best for the team but her way of dealing is very cool and calm. She was my captain in the challenger’s trophy in 2017 and we even emerged as the champions. She never really scolds us and is very focused towards her game as well. Jhulan Goswami scolds us, guides us but everything she does is always for the best for the team. She can be called an aggressive captain, she wants what she wants in a way that benefits the team and there is no compromising with that! But overall, it has been a wonderful experience sharing the dressing room with both of them.
10. How would you define your batting style?
I am someone who likes to take some time, spend some time understanding the wicket properly and then deciding what shots to play and how to proceed and build the innings. I would not really call myself an aggressive batter but certainly when fielding, I am an aggressive fielder!
11. What is the jersey number that you don and the story behind it?
I wear the number 41. Actually it is 5, but when we went to play the challenger’s trophy, they allot the jersey numbers to the senior players first and so 5 was already taken by somebody. So I settled for 41, that is 4 plus 1 is 5. Actually, I just said 5 when asked about my jersey number by my coach; there is not really any theory behind it (Laughs). But it has proved to be good for me in a way as well. Even in India A my jersey number is 41 and I have done quite well.
12. How does playing for India A take one nearer to the nationals and how does it impact a player’s game?
It is a very crucial part as one has to go beyond their comfort zone, the first time I played against the Aussies, looking at their fitness we were in awe. We decided to push ourselves to reach that level. One has to completely leave their comfort zone and try to become better in each and every department, be it batting, bowling or fielding. And fitness is certainly the most important aspect.
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13. Tell us something about your diet and workout routine?
It all works according to the trainer. Currently, our fitness trainer Afzal Khan Sir has prepared my fitness routine and diet chart so I work according to that only.
14. Women’s IPL has been a buzzing topic. What is your take on that?
Women’s IPL is a great idea and it should certainly be there. It brings out a lot of talent and gives a platform to young players to express themselves and compete with the most experienced players from all round the world. Even Australia has women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) and one major reason why Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana are able to assess the situations so well is their experience in such leagues. So it is definitely very important and necessary as it will also take the game to a whole new level.
There is a lot of difference between domestic cricket and international cricket, IPL brings together the structure of domestic cricket with international experience so that makes it a great experience and learning process for the young cricketers.
15. How effective has BCCI been over the years and what all must be introduced to improve cricket in India?
BCCI has been doing well for us and they have been providing us with good facilities as well. But there must be more matches like men because lack of matches even deteriorates our performance. Like our performance in India A was not really good, we lost against Australia. So the more the matches the better the performance and practice. Also, T20 format is really crucial these days so more practice in that is required. Players like Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur certainly get a bigger exposure with tourneys like WBBL, but not all get such chances. So, there have to be more matches as cricket is getting more competitive every day.
16. What is the most crucial trait a player must have to get to the international level?
Performance. It is the most important part, a player plays the U-19 then the U-23 but one thing that must never change and should be consistent is their performance. Only then they will get promoted with each step. Now, the players that perform well in the senior women’s league will be directly promoted to play the challenger’s tournament as the zonals are removed now. Once they play well at the challenger’s, they will be playing the India A and then to the nationals. So it is their performance that takes them ahead.
The competition is increasing every single day and therefore getting selected for nationals is really tough. The players have to maintain good performance and be consistent in their efforts.
17. Whom do you idolize in cricket or in life?
I look up to M.S Dhoni and Harmanpreet Kaur. Dhoni’s way of looking at the game and his cricketing brain is commendable. He always knows what is going to happen next. I love the way Harmanpreet Di plays. My role model I would say is M.S Dhoni but I always learn different things from different players. I learn various shots from various players, so it is never one person for everything.
18. Which is your all time favorite shot?
My favorite is the cut shot and the step out drive.
19. A sport certainly has its own ups and downs. How do you deal with the pressure situations?
I talk a lot to the senior players like I recently spoke to Poonam Di, Jhulan Di and other senior players. They always say that not all matches go our way and that these ups and downs are a part of the game. Jhulan Di always asks us to focus on our basics and get them right. She always asks me to focus and practice my strength shot more, wait for the right delivery and always believe in ourselves. If we could do it before, we are very much capable of doing it again.
Like in the senior league, initially I could not score but I backed myself and believed in myself and then the runs came. It is very important to back ourselves in such situations and everything eventually falls in place. I even spoke to Mithali Di and even she said that she always focuses on her strength that is her drive, she practices that a lot and makes sure she gets that right. There are just two main things- focus on your basics and back yourself!
20. If cricket had not happened, what else would have?
Now, that is a really difficult question! (Laughs) I think I would have been a photographer then because I love that or else I would have been a guitarist, I like that too! But it would not be anything related to studies, I have never really liked them. (Laughs) I studied just because I had to play and so I had to complete them, else I was never interested in them.
21. What is Tanusree Sarkar beyond the 22 Yards? What do you like to do in your off time?
I usually hang out with friends, watch movies, and listen to music and just the usual stuff. There is not really anything fixed. It all depends on the mood!
22. Who is your current coach and how important is the role of a coach in a player’s career?
I have always been trained by Surojit Chatterjee Sir and he has been my only coach. My club has changed but my coach is the same only. He has known my game since the very beginning and so he understands my game very well.
Coaching is extremely important as the coaches can help you in pressure situations, at times there are shots that you are struggling to play so they help you with that and also they guide you about how to approach the coming tours and matches and how to deal with those varying conditions. While playing, even a player understands their mistakes to some extent but there are some technical changes that only a coach can change and improve through outer observation.
23. There are some extremely competitive teams in world cricket today. Against which team would you want to have your dream debut?
I think it would be Australia; they are worlds best right now so a debut against them would be great! Obviously, playing for India is in itself the biggest moment of pride. Even my debut for India A was against them so I think that would be perfect!
24. A few words of advice for the aspiring cricketers?
Keep practicing and keep working hard. Stick to your strengths and basics and believe in yourself, always! While you are practicing, practice like you are playing the match itself. Bat like you are batting in the match and think of the situation just like a real match. Also, maintain your fitness because it is extremely important. Working hard is the ultimate key; the results will eventually follow and always focus on the process more than the results! Also, a player needs to observe their game a lot that is one of the most important parts so that they can improve personally as well. So be extremely observant of your game!
25. We at Female cricket try our best to impact the women’s cricket positively. Any suggestions or feedback that you had want us to work on?
It is a great job that Female Cricket is doing! The interviews that you take encourage us as players a lot and also help us and the fans in knowing the cricketers better. Also, you keep updating match scores and fixtures on social media that keeps us and the cricket fans always updated so it is a great job and certainly you are bringing women’s cricket and its fans nearer!
The 22 Yard stretch that molded me, is what I hold sacred. A cricketer weaving life’s innings into words. A Rohit Sharma Admirer always. I believe writing and cricket aren’t passions, but ways of life, so truly living the dream!