Sanika Chalke, a 16-year-old Mumbai batter, will be seen in the upcoming Women’s U19 T20 Challenger Trophy, to be played from November 1 to November 7 in Goa. The southpaw has been a run-machine recently and has taken the Indian women’s domestic cricket by storm, thanks to her skillful batting.
Female Cricket interviewed Sanika to know more about her cricketing journey, with an eye on the first-ever ICC Women’s U19 World Cup that will be played next year.
When did you start playing cricket?
I picked up cricket at a very young age. I was around seven when my father started feeding balls at home. I started playing cricket in the neighborhood with my friends as I grew up. Being born and brought up in Mumbai, gully cricket came naturally to me. This continued for some time before a ladies’ cricket tournament was organized in my building. I scored plenty of runs in that competition. After that event, my parents decided to enroll me in a cricket academy. I was 10 when I joined professional cricket coaching. It was in Dombivali, the place where I was born. I trained under Yogesh sir. However, I switched to a different academy as I was more inclined to be a batter and not a bowler. I went to Rajan Dhotre sir’s Boys Cricket Club and practiced there for a couple of years before moving to another cricket academy in Mulund. I continue to practice there.
How did your parents support your cricket?
My parents have always been supportive of my cricket. I vividly remember that one-month special camp of U16 for which I was selected. We had practice at Police Gymkhana at 7 am. I used to wake up at 4.30 am and board the train at around 5.30 am to reach the ground. Since it was very early in the morning, my father used to accompany me to the practice. He did it for the entire duration of the camp. He even left his corporate job to give time for my cricket. Be it festivals or any other day. He always made it a point to travel with me for my practice.
Was there girls’ cricket in your school?
There was no cricket for girls in my school. I used to play volleyball and even played the sport at the district level. I studied in Holy Angels, Dombivali, till the seventh standard. However, I always had a passion for playing cricket, and in that pursuit, I changed my school and joined RR Educational Trust School in Mulund when I was in the eighth standard. For my cricket, we also shifted our base from Dombivali to Kanjurmarg during that period. From a bigger place in Dombivali to a relatively smaller one in Kanjurmarg, my parents and grandparents sacrificed so that I could play cricket.
Do you recall any memorable performance from your school cricket?
Yes, I remember one match where I scored 101 runs from just 69 balls and picked up 18/6 bowling right-arm leg spin. It was an MSSA (Mumbai School Sports Association) match that I played in 2019. I represented RR Educational Trust School, and our opponent was Chatrabhuj Narsee Memorial School of Vile Parle. We registered a comprehensive 100-run win over them after posting 135/2 in 15 overs. The same year, I broke into the MCA U19 Probables and made my debut for Mumbai Women’s U19 team.
Can you tell us about your debut match for Mumbai U19?
I made my debut against Assam. I opened the batting and scored a useful 38 in a T20. Though not a half-century or a century came off my bat, I batted with confidence. Since then, there has been no looking back. 2022 has been my best year, having registered 225 runs in seven T20s. I have hit one century and one half-century and have been the third-highest run-getter in the T20 tournament.
After a prolific run in the T20s, you were selected for the Challengers Trophy. Did you expect it?
I had a great run in the T20s and was hopeful that I would make the cut for the T20 Challengers Trophy. I am happy to be a part of the Challengers. However, I know that there is a lot in front of me. If I do well in the Challengers, I have a strong chance of making it to India U19 A or India U19 B teams which will play against West Indies U19 and Sri Lanka. We also have a five-match bilateral T20 series against New Zealand U19.
Who is your role model?
Honestly, I never had a role model. But since I started playing for Mumbai, I have looked up to Jemimah Rodrigues. I feel blessed to have got the chance to play alongside her. I like the way she carries herself on and off the field.
Were there any challenging situations in your cricketing journey so far?
Yes, early this year, when I was a part of the ZCA camp, I featured in 10 matches. However, I could go past the 40-run mark in neither game. I used to get off to good starts but failed to capitalize. I talked to my coach and team psychologist. We discussed at length my weaknesses and worked on them. After overcoming that, I was a different and better player.
Any special preparations for the Challengers trophy?
I have been working on my fitness. Apart from this, I am working on adding new scoring areas to my repertoire against the left-arm fast bowlers. Also, recently, I faced some difficulties in facing left-arm spinners. I have been working on stepping out and sweep shots to play the left-arm spinners.
What’s your daily routine at present?
I have two cricket practice sessions in the day; one in the morning from 7.30 am to 10 am and the other later in the day from 3.30 pm to 6.30 pm. In between the two cricket practice sessions, I have my 12th-standard classes. I am pursuing my 12th from RR Educational Trust.
Next year the Women’s U19 World Cup will be played for the very first time. How excited are you about that? When did you know about the U19 World Cup for girls?
I am very excited about the inaugural edition of the Women’s U19 World Cup. It will give the young players much-needed international exposure. I came to know about it just before the start of this season. Since then, I have been working extra hard to give myself a strong chance of making it to the India U19 team.
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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.