In 2014, India with 8 debutants in their playing XI, had played a test match after 8 years. And against the expectations of the experts, they convincingly beat England which was led by legendary Charlotte Edwards, by 6 wickets at Wormsley. While their male counterpart was dumped 1-3, the eves salvaged the pride of the nation. When Indian Eves was making their country proud in a far away land, the eyes of a teenage girl in her hometown was lit up with that news. Little did she knew that 7 years later, she will be one of those who will be sharing the dressing room in white with the giants of the game. Indrani Roy, a girl from Bengal, who has been representing Jharkhand for a couple of years, has been selected for the 21-member side for the England series.

As the focus later was shifted more towards the shorter formats of the games the Test matches were only alive through Ashes. So India has to wait 7 more years after their back to back series victories against England and South Africa in white to play another test match, starting from June 16 in Bristol.

While speaking exclusively to Women’s CricInsight, she said despite her stellar show with the bat she was not expecting a call from the Indian side. “Though I did well in domestic, I was more excited about the Women IPL. But as that come to a standstill I thought the season has come to an end. I didn’t expect anything this bigger.”

It happened to her all of a sudden. Indrani Roy, a girl from a suburb of Bengal, unlike many of her age, was attracted towards the various sports. She added: “My family gave importance to studies like any other middle-class family and they expected me to choose my career, related to studies. There are uncertainties in sports, so my parents wanted me to choose a secure path. But it seems like she had another plan in mind.”

Indrani Roy. ©Indrani/Instagram

She continued: “When I was studying in class 8, I noticed some cricket practice was going on, on my way back home from tuition. I wanted to take the practice and also joined them as there are some of the girls were playing too. And that’s how it was started. But due to my investment of time in playing my result in one of the exams got bad and my father asked me to dedicate all of my focus towards studies.” And… the adventure was halted.

A year later, she finds out there was another coaching centre near her house. She went there and told sir that though she wanted to pursue cricket as a career, but without the consent of the family.

“It’s only when sir, Mr. Panchu Gopal Majhi came to my place and convinced my parents, they allowed me to play cricket. And from that day They have given everything for my cricket and I am glad that I can pay back them in my way. My mother has been a source of inspiration for me. We don’t discuss very much about my game at home but they have been my strong supporter. I am now in Kolkata for the practice. I called my family and they are very happy for me. Seems like all of the sacrifices they have made for my game is finally paying off,” revealed the youngster.

However, Indrani Roy went on to play club cricket and her transition to the Bengal Under-19 side was a swift one. Indrani, despite her impressive strike rate, told that she likes to play the longer formats of the game. And, she proved her words right with a classy 91 for East Zone against Central Zone in U-19 two day Zonal Tournament in 2016 as well.

She further added: “To me, the essence of cricket lies in the Test matches. It reflects life. I keep pondering upon those images and videos of cricketers playing covers drives in white. I  accelerate according to the need of the side but if the team needs to but I play the longer innings too.” 

But, Indrani Roy later moved to Jharkhand, eyeing more opportunity with bat and the gloves as well. And in Jharkhand side, she witnessed her batting flourished. In her first U-23 T20 tournament, she scored 221 runs at an average of 27. She got the opportunity to bat at top of the order and she grabbed that with both hands. Her improved batting was visible in the U-23 ODI tournament where she amassed 365 runs at an average of 41 with half-centuries against Chhattisgarh, Assam, Goa and Mumbai. Though Mumbai moves into the semifinal, based on Jemimah Rodrigues’ unbeaten 140, her 91 from 101 balls kept the Jharkhand on track till the 40th over.

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While speaking about her experience at Jharkhand side she said, “There is no doubt that Bengal is a side to reckon with in the domestic structure with so many players with International exposure and they have won trophies in the last few years. But on the other hand, Jharkhand is a side that is still in process. Many of the girls are of my age and we are learning. So, it’s more like of a learning process for us while enjoying our game.”

Notably, she didn’t have a decent first season for Jharkhand senior side and struggled to score runs in the initial matches of the 19/20 season as well. But once she got back her touch there was no looking back for her. Chasing 128 runs, she hit an unbeaten 67 against Uttar Pradesh to win the match by 9 wickets while hit a blistering knock of unbeaten 132 against Rajasthan from 150 balls too. Later, it was a fluent knock of 132* that steered Jharkhand to a mammoth 103-run win over Rajasthan in their final group game of the Senior One Day Tournament. Their win saw them finish second in Elite Group C, thus earning a place in the knockouts in Baroda as well.

But COVID-19 brought the entire world to a standstill and like many, it affected Indrani Roy too. Like most people, the lockdown was not an easy phase for her. It was exhausting and depressing but then she tried to treat herself well in that challenging situation.

“It was a setback for me. I was hitting the ball well and was gaining confidence. But then all stopped due to COVID-19. I know it was not an easy situation but I tried to go back to the basic and follow my routine and do the basic practice that I can do from my home. The situation is not in our control and we lost lots of matches but instead of thinking about these I focused on what remains in my hand,” she expressed.

Unable to venture out too often, she maintained a strict diet and attempted to maintain a fitness and practice routine as best she could. In the meantime, Indrani had a blast in the Jharkhand Premier League, scoring 485 runs at a strike rate of 127. It led Bokaro Blossoms to win the title. Her shot-making abilities, footwork and command over the understanding of the situation of the game were noteworthy. This tournament gave Indrani Roy a perfect opportunity to prepare for the domestics season.

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In March 2021 BCCI went on to host the senior One Day Trophy and in this series, Indrani Roy projected her prominence in the top order.  Jharkhand based on her batting reached the final this year. Indrani, along with her opening partners took the team to the conformable situation many times. In 8 matches, she scored 456 runs with an average of 76. Apart from her century against Gujrat, (130 from 132 balls) which came chasing a target, she hit another century against Chhattisgarh which according to her was crucial in this entire tournament.

“Out of my two centuries, my knock against Chhattisgarh was very very special. We needed to chase down the total very quickly to qualify for the knock-out stage. I didn’t know that from the very beginning. But in a break, our coach sent us a message that we needed to chased down a total of 177 in 34 overs. So, it created a bit of pressure upon my but I am glad that we won the match,” she revealed.

Her knock of 103 from 95 balls included 15 boundaries and a lone six. Jharkhand chased down the total in 31.2 balls to lock horns against Karnataka, where she once again came out with a blazing gun. Batting first, Indrani and Rashmi added 149 runs for the first wicket which ultimately took the total to 254 runs. Indrani chipped in with 86 runs from 91 balls. Karnataka fell short by 20 runs.

 

Indrani Roy. ©Indrani/Instagram

Speaking of her partnership Indrani Roy mentioned that she liked to bat with her partners. Though Jharkhand failed to lift the trophy, after their defeat to Railways, that didn’t bar them from earning praise from the legend, herself – Mithali Raj. “Mithali Di gave me tips to bat well after the final as well. Most importantly she praised us for our fielding and bowling. She is very humble and I do look up to her batting.”

Apart from Indian ODI captain, Indrani Roy has been a vivacious follower of former India captain MS Dhoni. The 23-year-old, who hails from Liluah in West Bengal’s Howrah district, moved to Jharkhand a few years ago and has been a regular member of the State team. That’s where she came in contact with Dhoni and ahead of her maiden tour with the Indian team, she wants to make the most of her ‘Mahi Sir’s’ suggestions.

During a training session in Ranchi sometime last year, one of her dreams come true when she met her childhood idol. “I had a long conversation with Mahi Sir about how to improve my game and he had told me that I should ensure that I improve my reflexes and movement in the five-metre radius. For wicketkeepers, that’s a key thing and he advised me that I should try and get better,” Indrani insisted that actually helped her in longer runs.

However, her inclusion in India’s 21-member side came after her stellar session with the bat. She did not see that coming even after her performance with the bat. While speaking about that, she said, “I was in Kolkata for my practice when I got the news. Honestly was a bit upset when the IPL got cancelled because rather than the Indian side I was expecting a call there. But it got bigger. I am extremely happy, of course. I’ve worked very hard for this over many years, so I hope to make full use of the opportunity that comes my way. I had a dream of playing for India one day. Every cricketer possesses that dream. And see I have been selected on the Test side. Seems like a dream of playing Test match for India is turning out to be true.”

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Indrani knows that the Indian top-order is packed and it will be a tough fight to break into the final XI. But at the same time, she is confident to make use of the opportunity with the bat as well as with the gloves. India has been looking for a dashing batter-wicket keeper for a long time. Though Sushma Verma, Ravi Kalpana, or even Tania Bhatia have been good behind the wicket, their performances with the bat have dried up.

In the last 5 years as designated wicketkeeper in 28 innings, Indian keepers have produced only one half-century in ODI with an average of not more than 20. It got worse in the T20 format. So India can use the like of Indrani Roy, who can bat with a good strike rate and even played at the top of the order too. While she is not focusing on the future very much, she is indeed thrilled that she can share the dressing room with the likes of Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami and Harmanpreet Kaur, the players whom she has watched on TV while growing up.

“I don’t know if I will get any chance to play or not. It’s a learning experience for me from so many international players and spends times with them. It can help me in the longer runs. While growing up like everyone I used to dream that I will be playing for India one day. I am lucky that hard work paid off and I have got the chance. The next goal is to get a chance, perform well and play for India for as long as possible,” Indrani Roy signed off.

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