Saurashtra’s U-23 women’s team captain Riddhi Ruparel started playing cricket only at the age of 14. Coming from a family with a cricket background, Riddhi was always inclined towards the sport. She started her journey as an off-spin bowler, but the coaches later spotted her wicket-keeping skills and started nurturing her game. Dedicated on and off the field, Riddhi picked up the sport and soon made it to the U19 Saurashtra Women’s squad. There was no looking back since then.
In an Exclusive chat with Female Cricket, Riddhi talks about her cricket journey, the experience leading her side, her love for Harmanpreet Kaur and massive respect for the idol – Bangladesh cricketer Mushfiqur Rahim.
1. Tell us something about your early days and how you were introduced to cricket?
My father used to play cricket when I was a child and I enjoyed going with him for the practice sessions. It was at that time that I asked my father if I could join a cricket academy; my father was pleased hearing that and was happy that being a girl I wanted to play cricket. That’s how I started to play. I was 14 when I went for the official selection trials for the Saurashtra U-19 team and I got selected in the stand-bys. In 2012 I got selected in the U19 team as a wicket-keeper and top-order batter. My journey began from there.
2. What academy did you first train at when you started professional cricket?
I first practiced at the Navanagar Cricket Academy in Jamnagar, under Mahendrasinh Chauhan sir’s coaching.
3. Has your family always been supportive of your cricketing career? What role have they played in your journey?
My family was very supportive towards me and my goals, my father being a cricket player himself guided me wherever I went wrong or whichever areas I had to focus more on, and my mother is also very supportive – from managing my diet, my studies and my practice routines, she did it all.
She never forced me to join any of the ceremonies or family get-togethers that the entire family was compelled to attend. She never even scolded me saying I should study. I was a bright student, couldn’t say brilliant but I got good in grades.
I have done my Bachelor’s in Commerce followed by a diploma in sports management. My parents never told me I had to excel as a student, they knew that my goal was cricket and had my back on it. My brother also has been playing a great role by giving me moral support.
4. What made you try your hand at wicket-keeping initially?
In the beginning, I wanted to become off-spin bowler but my coach Reenaba Zala and Mahendrasinh Chauhan Sir found the spark of wicket keeping in me, they thought I would be better as a wicketkeeper than as off-spin bowler because my reflexes and footwork were good. It is their blessing that I am a wicket-keeper.
5. You’re currently leading the Saurashtra U-23 state team, how do you think the captaincy experience has helped you shape your game?
I have been leading Saurashtra Cricket Association in U-19 and U-23 and since the day I started leading the side, I feel that it made me more and more responsible, I have started thinking a lot about my game as I knew I have to carry the whole team along with me and I will be responsible for whatever the result is. Along with that, as I am a wicket-keeper, I can judge the field placement well so it helps me with captainship and being a captain helps me to always be active both on and off the field. It helps me understand each and every player’s mindset in the team.
6. How has the Saurashtra Cricket Association contributed to your cricket career?
Saurashtra cricket association is always helpful in all aspects. We are probably getting the best facilities and infrastructure all over the country.
Saurashtra cricket association has the highest number of practice nets and that is 26 nets in a row, and during every camp, we utilize it and other than that it has never disappointed us. Whenever a player has performed; our association has always backed up the player and tried to push them to the next level.
We get camps in offseason also, so basically they are doing their part for us and it is our turn to return the favor with great performances.
7. Who were your cricketing idols growing up?
MS Dhoni, Harmanpreet Kaur, and Musfiqur Rahim are my cricketing idols.
MSD is my idol as he is one of the best in the field of cricket. I can say a perfect captain-wicket keeper-batsman. I idolize him for his keeping technique which no other keeper has got and his calm and patient nature even at the time of pressure, which makes him the best finisher. Harmanpreet Kaur is my idol since I started playing professional cricket. Whenever I used to see her playing, I thought of only one thing and that is to bat with her in Blues. I dream of a day when I will play with her in blues and win the world cup for our country. Her approach in batting, her strength, her hard work, her aggression, and her fearless manly body language influences me to be like her and win games for the team. She is the lioness in true means.
Musfiqur Rahim is probably, height-wise, the smallest wicket-keeper in international cricket and so am I in Indian domestic cricket. I started noticing his game to learn from him; his crouch, his footwork and glove work, his presence of mind and in batting how well he uses a crease. Being a short heightened one needs to adjust very well and he is master in that.
8. You idolize Mushfiqur Rahim and recently got a chance to meet him, how was that experience?
When I met Mushfiqur Rahim I was highly obliged to see him. He is a very genuine and down to earth person, I mean Indian cricketers have always respected their fans but being from another country and respecting a domestic player is one of the best qualities a player can have. I was highly impressed by it and didn’t imagine that my meeting with him will end so well. When he got to know from the Bangladesh media that her fan is here and wanted a photo he stood up and happily came towards me for the picture. He is a very genuine person.
9. How do you tackle pressure situations, what is your stress buster?
Good practice sessions, visualization, and shadow practices are my stress buster. I always believe in working hard and putting my best efforts into practice session and it gives me confidence. Whenever there is a stressful situation and I am suffering from the bad patch I always visualize my best inning and the ones in which I made my team win and believe in myself that if I did it earlier, then I can always continue doing it. Along with that I firmly believe in shadow practice, every day I do shadow practice in my room and I don’t go to sleep without that, it has become a part of me and it is really helping me whenever I bat.
10. What has been your best cricket memory so far?
The ones in which I made my team win are all the good memories for me. Out of them, I would say 67 against J&K in U23 one day played at Rajkot last year, and the game against Pondicherry in which I scored 30 runs and dismissed 5 batters by my wicket-keeping, it was played in Vijaywada. In U23 T20 I ended up with a total of 205 runs and 11 dismissals of 7 matches.
11. What is your ultimate career goal?
My ultimate career goal is to play for my country and contribute towards winning the world cup as a wicket-keeper and top-order batsman. Short term goal wise, looking forward to playing the challenger trophies in all the formats.
12. Apart from cricket, what do you enjoy doing?
Honestly speaking there’s nothing other than cricket which I enjoy doing.
13. What is the best part about SCA and in what aspect do you think the association can improve?
Saurashtra cricket association has always backed up good players and has always given them the facilities and support one must get to play further. Saurashtra cricket association is doing its best part for the player. I won’t say they need to improve anywhere it’s just that we have to give our best for the association and they will definitely support us. I would just like to add that more practice matches will help to groom the player, that’s about it.
14. How do you think women’s cricket can be further promoted in India?
Women’s Cricket is already wide-spread and now the live telecasts are also there but some of the series are being left out to for the telecast, I feel each and every international match must be shown on TV so that the youngsters learn from it and more and more girls will get motivated to play at that stage. The competitiveness will increase and through this comes out real talents. And when the squad for the international series is declared it must be televised so that people get to know about each and every player.
15. Your views on our initiative – Female Cricket? We would appreciate your suggestions.
I am very thankful that Female Cricket has shown interest in me and want to publish my cricket story, it is a great initiative from Female Cricket that they are working so hard to promote women’s cricket right from the domestic level. Generally, all the international players are been interviewed but this is the first platform that interviews domestic players and shows great interest in them. It has become a base for all the information regarding cricket. Whether it be of our country or other, we get all the information regarding the women’s tournaments played all over the world. The selfless love towards promoting women’s cricket is purely endured here as they show interest in all the players performing in all the tournaments played across the world, highlighting every star performer of the match really motivates the followers. I wish the Female Cricket team all the very best for the future and really appreciate their contribution towards the growth of women’s cricket.