Cricket

CWC 2022: From the foothills of Darjeeling to the biggest stage in the world of cricket, Richa made his sacrifices count | locust

CWC 2022: From the foothills of Darjeeling to the biggest stage in the world of cricket, Richa made his sacrifices count |  locust

Hailing from a relatively remote town of Siliguri, located at the foot of Darjeeling, it didn’t take long for 18-year-old Richa Ghosh to rise through the ranks and become a household name in the cricket circuit. The wicket-beater has successfully shown her striking abilities, as evidenced by the recent series against New Zealand, where she hit a 50-26 ball – the fastest by an Indian cricketer in an ODI .

Just like many of her peers, Richa also had to go through the grind to get where she is. But the road to success was made slightly easier thanks to the support of his father, Manabendra Ghosh, a former cricketer at club level.

Ghosh, who enjoys billiards, a sport in which he claims Richa has yet to beat him, says cricket was not his first choice. He explained that the lack of popularity of women’s cricket at the time was the reason. However, it was Richa’s reluctance to choose another sport that convinced Ghosh to sign him up for Baghajatin Athletic Club, a team he once played for.

A poster congratulating Richa Ghosh on World Cup selection. (HT Photo/Shivam Saha)

“Richa started playing when she was about four years old. I used to take her to the club that I had represented at one point. I found that she was not restless, that she used to sit and watch the games, that she used to pick up the bat and play, but never cared to go home. I also tried to get her involved in table tennis, but she wasn’t interested as she threw the bat after a few strokes saying ‘I want to play cricket,'” Ghosh said. Hindustan time while watching a T20 subdivisional match at Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri.

“At that time, we hardly had any women’s cricket; only Jhulan was there so I was skeptical about her cricketing future but considering the fitness factor I put her in the club. When she joined the club, she was the youngest and only girl in the club.

Players from local clubs take part in a sub-divisional T20 match at Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri.  (HT Photo/Shivam Saha)
Players from local clubs take part in a sub-divisional T20 match at Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri. (HT Photo/Shivam Saha)

Considering his age, Richa was first given the tennis ball for practice. But his fearlessness despite some painful beatings prompted Ghosh to get him a new cricket kit. Having constantly monitored Richa’s growth, Ghosh noticed a flair in his daughter’s stick, enough to assure him to get her into serious business. He even tried to open a separate girls’ academy in the club, for which he traveled to Kolkata and managed to get some professionals involved.

“At first we gave her a tennis ball and we noticed that she was not afraid of anything. She didn’t even care if the ball hit her. Then I got her first cricket kit. What i also noticed is that she has this natural bat flow and then i realized we had to be serious about that so i asked permission from the club and we also thought of open an academy for women’s cricket,” he said.

“So I went to Kolkata where I met a former player and discussed the idea of ​​setting up an academy and in front of me she called Jhulan Goswami who also gave positive feedback and was ready to help in any way bad luck for us because the owners of the club called me back and said that we were already struggling to organize this for the boys, so it will be more difficult for the girls.

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The story didn’t end there as Ghosh soon got a call from Siliguri Mahakuma Krira Parishad, the city’s sports body, which showed their willingness to set up a girls’ academy. They had also brought in a few coaches from Kolkata for this purpose, after which Richa soon started training there. “We had Chaitali Basak, who was one of the first people to treat Richa. Jhulan Goswami also came. They opted for an inter-district tournament.

Domestic Cricket Trip

The Bengal women's team pose for a photo after winning the senior women's one day league.  (Twitter)
The Bengal women’s team pose for a photo after winning the Senior Women’s One Day League. (Twitter)

Richa was nine years old when she entered the tournament and came back undefeated in almost every match she played. It was due to her performances in these tournaments that Richa was allowed to join a camp in Kolkata. A few years later, Richa was part of the Bengal U-19 team when she was just 13 years old. After playing for the U-19 team for a year, she played for the U-23 team, senior T20 team and One-Day, making her the only player to make it to all teams when Bengal won the championship in 2018.

Not only with the bat or the glove, but Richa was also a key contributor on his side with the ball. As her father describes it, “she was one of the most economical bowlers.” Ghosh also remembers getting an interesting phone call from a coach, who thought Richa might turn out to be a good fast bowling prospect due to his good height.

However, this was easier said than done as Richa was often asked to show up in Kolkata to attend cricket camps on short notice. For this, Richa had to take a night train from Siliguri and travel through the crowded general compartment.

“You know it is very difficult to get to Kolkata, and sometimes on very short notice we have to show up. So we used to travel in the general compartment because there was no other option. Bus we used to avoid, flight we couldn’t afford every time and the only option was the train. I accompanied Richa to each camp. Month after month, I used to stay in a hotel, which was expensive, but I couldn’t help it,” says Ghosh.

Trophies won by Richa Ghosh kept in a cabinet at her home. (HT Photo/Shivam Saha)
Trophies won by Richa Ghosh kept in a cabinet at her home. (HT Photo/Shivam Saha)

Having already established herself as a star batsman in the Bengal unit, Richa continued her strong run in the Challengers Trophy, where she was part of India ‘B’ captained by Smriti Mandhana. After her impressive performance in the tournament, Richa was then chosen in India’s T20 World Cup squad in 2020 when she was just 16 years old and uncapped.

Having already established herself as a star batsman in the Bengal unit, Richa continued her strong run in the Challengers Trophy, where she was part of India ‘B’ captained by Smriti Mandhana. After her impressive performance in the tournament, Richa was then chosen in India’s T20 World Cup squad in 2020 when she was just 16 years old and uncapped.

Fast forward two years, the wicket-combing keeper is among the key players to watch from India’s side at the ICC Women’s World Cup, which starts from Friday.

Asked about it to his father, he says: “My dream was to see her play for India and to have the chance to see her play in the World Cup is a dream come true with bonuses.”

Life in Siliguri

A photo frame of the Indian women's cricket team (HT Photo/Shivam Saha)
A photo frame of the Indian women’s cricket team (HT Photo/Shivam Saha)

When you walk into the living room of her house, you’ll notice a giant picture frame of Richa receiving her first Indian cap from Harmanpreet Kaur while posing with the rest of her teammates. Then there is a rope suspended in the center and attached to a ball wrapped in a sock intended for hitting.

Her mother, Swapna Ghosh, who is a housewife, says that Richa, if present at home, uses her to practice for almost 5-6 hours. Following this, her father quickly points to the windows, which was recently fixed after Richa broke each of them with the same bullet while doing her exercise.

“She often plays in the living room, which I prefer to call the playground. Sometimes she tells her father to bowl on one side while she bats on the other. There’s not even a single glass in our windows that she hasn’t broken and every time she does she just keeps her tongue between her teeth,” her mother says.

When you walk into the living room of her house, you’ll notice a giant picture frame of Richa receiving her first Indian cap from Harmanpreet Kaur while posing with the rest of her teammates. Then there is a rope suspended in the center and attached to a ball wrapped in a sock intended for hitting.

Her mother, Swapna Ghosh, who is a housewife, says that Richa, if present at home, uses her to practice for almost 5-6 hours. Following this, her father quickly points to the windows, which was recently fixed after Richa broke each of them with the same bullet while doing her exercise.

“She often plays in the living room, which I prefer to call the playground. Sometimes she tells her father to bowl on one side while she bats on the other. There’s not even a single glass in our windows that she hasn’t broken and every time she does she just keeps her tongue between her teeth,” her mother says.

A photo of Richa Ghosh training at home during confinement
A photo of Richa Ghosh training at home during confinement

The entrance to his house has an alley, which served as a training ground during the confinement. His trophy cabinet is filled with silverware most of which was won by Richa and some by his father as well.

While Richa has now switched to a healthier diet of mostly vegetarian foods with very little oil, her mother’s mind goes back to a time when she loved chili chicken and fried rice.

“Today she prefers to eat vegetarian food with little oil. However, there is one particular dish, which is chicken chili and fried rice that she loves to eat and even if she does not ask, we always eat it together to remind him of the old days,” she says.

Richa’s rise in the international circuit inspired other parents to enroll their children in cricket academies. The Baghajatin Club now has 6-7 very young girls training, while a significant number train at a larger Agragamee Club facility in Hakimpara, where Wriddhiman Saha used to play.