At 16 years and 204 days, she was the youngest player to represent the Indian national team in Women’s Twenty20 International cricket. She is known for her attacking but elegant batting and has been a big name in domestic cricket. She is also the first cricketer from the Andhra women’s cricket team to score a double century and a triple century in a senior women inter-district match.
We are talking about Sneha Deepthi. Female Cricket got in touch with this swashbuckling bat to know more about her cricketing journey.
Excerpts from the interview:
How are you spending time during the lockdown?
After a long time, I have been home during this time of the year. I am making the most of this break. I am spending time with family, learning to cook different cuisines, and of course, working on my fitness.
Take us back to your childhood days. How did you start playing cricket?
I was around eight years old when I started playing cricket. Actually, seeing my younger brother play the sport, I developed an interest in the game. My father used to train my brother. The father-son duo practiced on the ground. The ground was big which meant there was a lot of running around to do to fetch the balls. So my father decided to take me along at least to get the balls.
After a few days of just running to return the balls, I finally expressed my disappointment to my father, who could also clearly see that I was not too happy with what was going on. My father then offered me batting. That is how I started hitting the balls hard, not in vengeance, but to make myself feel good. Back then, we had no nets. To get nets, my father approached the fishermen. They helped him with the same.
The first net that we used for practice was stitched by my father. Practice with father and brother went on for some time and finally in 2003, I joined a summer camp for cricket. I was the only girl there however it didn’t deter me. Mornings I went to the summer camp and in the evenings I had a practice session with my father. Till 2007, I trained under my father. In 2008, when Andhra Cricket Association, announced a camp, I went there gleefully. Till that time I had never seen so many girls playing cricket.
Right in the beginning, two groups were made, Group A, where all the state players were there and Group B was for beginners. Initially, I was in Group B, but after my first net session, in which I showed my batting skills, I was promoted to Group A. In my very first year, I made my way into the Andhra state team. I was a part of the U-19 teams. After playing a match-winning knock of 36 not out against Punjab, I was selected for the senior state team. Till 2014, I played for Andhra. I mostly opened the batting.
Can you share one of your memorable innings?
It was in 2014-15. We (Andhra) were in the Plate Group. After doing well in the league matches, we had qualified for the semi-finals. We were set up against Madhya Pradesh. The wicket on which we played was damp and scoring was very difficult. Being an aggressive batter by nature, I had to undergo a paradigm shift in my batting approach. I realized that scoring runs was not going to be easy.
For the first 18 balls, I could not get off the mark. However, I didn’t lose confidence. I knew I had to be there for my team to reach the finals. I stood there and waited for my opportunity to score big. At the end of the innings, I had a score of 46, which steered my team home. We were into the finals. That year, we went on to win the championship. Now when I look back, I realize the importance of that innings. Since then we have been in the Elite Group.
Andhra has won many championships. According to you what is the secret behind the success?
As a team, we share a great camaraderie. We bond well. The fact that we live together in a dormitory has helped us get closer to each other. We help each other and discuss a lot of things in and around cricket. We have many team meetings, in which the players talk openly. Apart from this, since 2011, when New Zealand’s Maria Fahey joined the support staff, there has been a significant change in our approach.
She taught us the importance of winning. She was strict on the field but she was just like any other friend off the field. I remember she used to make us run one full round of the ground for bowling a wide. We learned things the hard way. But thanks to her, there have been many matches wherein we have bowled no extras. She worked on our mental conditioning as well.
You have a double century and a triple century in district level matches. Tell us about that.
In 2013, I scored 203 not out against East Godavari in a senior women inter-district match. It felt amazing. Though I have always been an aggressive bat, I did not imagine that I would achieve such a feat. A couple of years later, I made 350 against Srikakulam in a league match of ACA North Zone inter-district women’s tournament. This is the highest individual score by a women cricketer for Andhra Cricket Association (ACA). I was batting alongside my younger sister and she kept on motivating me to score those big runs. Those two innings are still fresh in my mind.
After some prolific domestic seasons, you were picked up for India in 2013. How did that feel?
The day when I got to know about my India selection, I was playing a U-19 match zonal match. For that match, I don’t know why, I asked my father to be there. He had come to see me. I scored 45. Honestly, I was expecting an India U-19 call, but was taken by surprise when I heard my name being announced for the senior national team.
It was an emotional moment for me and my father. That day, my father’s words, “Sachin made his India debut at the age of 16” rang loud in my ears and I was happy that I was able to keep my word, because to my father, I had replied, “Even I will do it.”
After a brief stint with Team India, you returned back to domestic cricket. Can you take us through your Railways’ days?
In 2016, I joined South Central Railways. Doing well in the inter-railways meant that you get a chance to be a part of the iconic Indian Railways side. I have been a part of the Indian Railways outfit since 2016, thanks to my heavy scoring for South Central railways. Playing for Indian Railways is a matter of great pride. It is a star-studded team and getting into the playing XI is one of the most difficult tasks. There are legends in the dressing room and you get to learn a lot from their experience.
Which coaches have played an important role in shaping your cricket career?
In 2008, when I joined the camp conducted by ACA, it was Krishna Rao sir there. He gave me a lot of exposure. He took me to practice where the Ranji boys used to play. I practiced with them which helped me improve my game. Then when I started playing for the Andhra team, there was Reddy sir. He has also played a pivotal role in my cricket career. We also had Maria (Fahey) ma’am and her role was extremely crucial as well. Now with Railways, there is Mannu sir and Nooshin di. I have learnt a lot from them too.
What is your message to the upcoming women cricketers?
Believe in yourself and always keep learning. Give your 100% to whatever you do. There might be some hurdles in your way, but it is important that you rise after every fall.
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.