Women’s cricket has caught the fancy and is one of the most-talked about topics in the recent times. But do not be surprised if we say that women’s cricket is equally popular in Jammu & Kashmir. Several female cricket fanatics from the region have come forward to improve the state of women’s cricket. One such contributor is Dr. Roopali Slathia. A level-2 BCCI certified coach and lecturer, Roopali has seen J&K cricket from closed quarters. She has represented her state and played cricket for more than a decade. A proud coach today, Roopali envisions a positive growth in Jammu and Kashmir’s cricket community. Excerpts from an interview:
1. What age did you start playing?
I started playing cricket at the age of 14.
2. Any gully cricket moment that you remember?
I used to play cricket with boys in my childhood days. I distinctly remember one incidence from my gully cricket days: my team was on the verge of losing a match and I came to bat and hit a six and we won the match. What a feeling it was!
3. Who were your cricketing role model / inspiration whilst growing up?
Sachin Tendulkar and Waqar Younis
4. Why did you choose cricket back then despite knowing the challenges and the hardships one face throughout the career? Were your parents supportive?
I started playing cricket because of my sister. I used to follow her game initially and later on cricket became an important part of my life. I was ready to take up all the challenges. My father has always been a big support and motivation.
5. How was women’s cricket in Jammu & Kashmir back then? What was people’s perception about women’s cricket? Has it changed now?
In 1996, when I was started playing cricket, very few people knew about the concept of women’s cricket. But our General Secretary Mr. Shambhu Nath Sharma ji supported women’s cricket since the beginning and state organisations also came forward in improving the status of women’s cricket after world cup 2017.
6. Which club and Coach did you start your journey with? Which all club have you represented so far?
I played for JKCA (Jammu Kashmir Cricket Association) and also played at north zone level. I was also selected for India camp twice.
7. At what age did you make your domestic debut for Jammu & Kashmir? Were you excited with the opportunity or nervous with the expectations?
At the age of 15, I started playing for Jammu & Kashmir state team. There was one moment when I was playing for zone, selectors were analyzing the game. I was so nervous that I bowled 10 balls in an over. That day I realized, if we want to achieve something, we have to overcome our nervousness.
8. When you look back at your playing cricket career today, how has the journey been? Are you satisfied?
In our times, the conditions were totally different than what it is today. We did not have much facilities and we were not satisfied with the game. Nowadays, there are availability of good grounds, better equipment and great guidance for all players.
9. You were one of the promising cricketers from J&K who played for more than 10 years for the state. What kept you away from making a national entry?
Though I was talented but lack of exposure to my game and lack of good coaching stopped me from taking the next big plunge.
10. Let us talk about your second innings – Your journey as a Coach. How did this happen? Was it your own decision or did someone motivate you to take up coaching?
My mentor motivated me to do NIS in 2005.
11. You completed your diploma from NIS in 2006. What happened after that?
After completing NIS, I started sharing my knowledge with youngsters. I also played for 4 years after that and in parallel to that, guided my junior team.
12. You became the first woman cricket coach from J & K to complete Level B coaching in 2011. What do you feel about this achievement? What’s your next goal?
Yes of course, its always a great feeling when you become a level coach for your team. My ultimate goal is to take my team to a level where the entire nation will be proud and inspired.
13. In June this year, you were given an opportunity to coach a Central Zone team. How was the experience and key learning after coaching a senior side?
Yes when I got a call to coach the central zone team, it was a great feeling but a challenging one project too. I did some new experiments also and luckily they worked and I was successful in the endeavor assigned to me.
14. What all tournaments are available for girls in Jammu & Kashmir?
Jasia Akhtar was recently selected for India camp. She is basically from J&K but is currently playing for Punjab. Write now we don’t have much tournaments and selection camps for the players.
15. You have mentioned a lot about infrastructural advancement required in J&K. Is there a lack of proper cricket ground, club? What all is missing?
We only have one ground in Jammu and one in Srinagar for both boys and girls and the grounds have only 2-3 nets without rest-rooms. So all we need is well structured grounds for playing.
16. Who do you feel is an emerging talent from the J&K squad right now?
I see a lot of potential in Anju Chaudhry, Meenu Slathia, Sarla Devi, Nadia and Rubia Syed.
17. How has J&K team performed in the BCCI domestic tournaments so far? Where do you see this team in next 3 years?
Not that good performance but still they are trying their level best. Due to lack of T-20 and other tournaments, girls have suffered. If they are given proper facilities and more matches, there is a scope of improvement in our performances.
18. Fill in the complete J&K women’s squad in following format:
19. What would be your message to aspiring female cricket players?
This is the right time to start your cricket career. Post the world cup 2017, the momentum has shifted towards us. So work hard, do well and enjoy the game.
20. Your views on our Female Cricket platform?
It is very inspiring for a women cricketer to see platform like female cricket doing their best to promote and raise the profile of our cricketers in the country. Keep it up.