India’s swashbuckling opener Smriti Mandhana has millions of fans around the world. But she hardly had any idea that she has a fan in her opponent team before their second game of the ICC T20 World Cup earlier this year. And the fan is none other than Murshida Khatun – Bangladesh opener and probably one of the positives in their tournament.
Murshida Khatun, fondly known as Happy idolized Smriti Mandhana since her century in the 2017 ICC Cricket World Cup. Along with playing in the World Cup, meeting Mandhana was her another dream which was fulfilled earlier this year during the marquee event in Australia.
In a chat with Women’s CricInsight, Murshida Khatun has shared her story.
“I am a big fan of Smriti Mandhana. I started following her post-2017 World Cup. I do watch her videos – be it her IPL videos or Big Bash. I love her pull and lofted cover drives a lot. After meeting with her, I got nervous as it was the first time and a great feeling,” said Happy.
We can probably relate to this feeling, can’t we?
Like others, her journey was no different. She started playing with boys in the locality. Although she used to play football and badminton, cricket was her first love. She even skipped her school to play cricket with cousins. To learn the game, she joined Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protishtan (BKSP). It is the biggest institute in Bangladesh known for its games and studies.
“I started playing with the tennis ball after joining there. After that, I started playing with dues ball under Dolly ma’am. I have learnt how to hold a bat properly from her. I knew nothing before joining here and she has spent a lot of time on me and helped me to learn how to take shots,” added the opener.
BKSP has a different rule for games where if you don’t do well you wouldn’t be allowed to stay further.
“In BKSP, there is a grading system. If you don’t do well in games you can be out of the institution and I got a C in the first exam. If I would get another C, I would have been out of BKSP. At that time, I couldn’t even run for 10 minutes too. But I was lucky that I survived. After her, I got Mehedy sir and later Fatema ma’am as my coach and they also helped me,” shared Murshida Khatun.
* * *
However, it was her ex-national team coaches – Anju Jain (Head Coach) and Devieka Palshikaar (Assistant Coach) who literally groomed her.
In her words, “Devieka ma’am helped me a lot. She has seen me batting in the domestic league and backed me in the national team as well. She had faith in me since I was doing well in domestic, I might have done better in the international circuit too. She supported me mentally which was immense as it was tough for me to match up with others while returning after a year.”
While she has proved her worth many times in the domestic circuit, after seeing her game, the then assistant coach Devieka Palshikaar was quite convinced to keep her in the national team.
“She made her debut under some other head coach in 2018. In between one year everybody said she is good for domestic but still not ready for the international. But seeing her in domestic, I had a strong view that she has a bright future and we should keep her. Even after seeing her, Anju di also made her mind that we have to keep this girl with us. And, she has been there since the Emerging tour and we tried to give her as many chances as possible,” said Devieka Palshikaar to Women’s CricInsight.
However, the road was not at all smooth for her. Having made her debut against South Africa in 2018, she had to see the exit door very soon as she failed to perform. While her domestic journey started in 2013, it took nearly 3 years to come in the limelight.
“I first got the chance to play in the premier league in 2013, where I didn’t get a single game. In 2014, I played 3 games only but couldn’t perform. Even I failed to do well in NCL too. In 2015, I did well compare to the previous years where I scored a 50 also,” revealed Happy.
“It was in 2016 when I did quite well. I hit three half-centuries. After that, I got a call in the national camp. I attended two camps where fitness and skill were checked. In 2017 premier league, I hit a century as well and was in the top 5 batters’ list. After that, I was again called up in the national team and did fairly well in the selection match,” further added Murshida Khatun.
But she failed in her first series against South Africa. New place and the world-best bowlers of South Africa left her nervous and she failed to live up to the expectations.
“I was a novice at that time. In May 2018, I played my first game against South Africa. Although I was a standby during the Asia Cup and Thailand tour, I was nervous to face the bowlers like Shabnim Ismail. I watched a lot of videos before the game but couldn’t do well because I failed to adjust with the pitch and weather. And once again, I became a standby,” recalled Happy.
However, destiny had some other plans. She did exceptionally well in the 2019 domestic leagues. There was no one who could have stopped her selection after being the highest scorer in the national league and hit two centuries in the premier league. And she returned to the national team on the back of it.
She last played for the national team in May 2018 and again returned in the T20 squad in August 2019 and ODI in November. While recalling the time when she was out of the team, she shared it was tough to motivate as she wasn’t mentally strong despite having skills. Her brother and mother supported a lot. She did a lot of hard work on her game. She even did yoga and gave time to herself as well.
However, after returning to the team, she was featured in Emerging Asia Cup and then went to Pakistan as well. While she had failed to score in the first ODI against Pakistan, she scored 44 off 67 with 6 sixes in the second which Bangladesh won by a whisker. And she gave the credit to her coaches and further said that she will be grateful to them.
* * *
While it was her dream to play in the World Cup, she left her authority in the very first game against India. After getting a target of 143 on the board, she took 4 balls to set her eyes in and smashed India spinner, Deepti Sharma, for 3 boundaries in an over.
After having lost her opening partner within the first seven balls, she added a 39-run stand for the second-wicket with Sanjida Islam to get Bangladesh off to a stable start. In the 3rd over, she dragged the ball from outside off and hit a slog-sweep towards the wide long-on for a boundary on the very first ball. The second one went through the deep backward point and the third one through the deep square leg region.
To hit Deepti Sharma that too with free-flowing batting isn’t an easy job but she did. She also slammed one straight down the ground for a boundary off Arundhati Reddy before getting dismissed for 30 off 26. It was the second-highest score for Bangladesh after Nigar sultana Joty (35). Even the then Head Coach of Bangladesh, Anju Jain was quite impressed with her batting.
“She is a key learner and there is a lot of improvement since her beginning in South Africa in terms of batting, fitness and fielding. She is a very good prospect for the future. There was not much left-hander and we short-listed her since our May-June camp,” said Anju Jain, the former head coach to Women’s CricInsight.
While sharing the experience, she said, “It was my 1st match against India, in the World Cup and also under the light. I was excited to play the game and was talking to myself to keep my nerves under control. We thought we could chase around 130 but when they gave the target, I thought to play an attacking game. It would be good if I could stay a little longer. I had a target of scoring around 30-35 runs in the powerplay where I didn’t see the bowler as my focus was on the ball only.”
Although she failed to do well in the rest of the tournament, her boundary off Australia speedster Megan Schutt showed her authority in the game. It was right in the slot and she hit it over the head of the bowler which was nothing but a treat to watch.
“It was my dream to play in the World Cup but it would be great if I could contribute much. I was disheartened after the tournament. I would be happy if I could score one or two 50s. I couldn’t even talk to the coaches as I felt guilty of not live upto their expectations. Coaches, especially Devieka ma’am was always there to guide me,” expressed Murshida.
W . . 1 | 1 W W . 1 . | 1 1 . 4 W . | 1 . . 4 1 . | W 1 1 2 W 1 | 1 1 1 W 1 . | 1 W
— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) February 29, 2020
“Against Australia, we had some plans but failed to execute as we failed in every department. The team has asked me to play my own attacking game every time. Even against New Zealand, if I would have stayed for another 5 overs, we would have won the game as the target was low. We were too upset after the game as I thought we could have reached the target,” concluded the Bangladesh player.
Among all the negatives, Murshida Khatun was one of the positives for Bangladesh in the ICC T20 World Cup. She was groomed under the guidance of both the coaches for the last one year since the South Africa Emerging tour. Although she failed to provide with much support to her side throughout the tournament, her free-flowing shots certainly gave the relief to the team for the opening slot.
However, this year’s national league have suspended owing to the global pandemic – COVID-19. As the pandemic situation is slowly getting better in some places, it can be hoped that the nation too will enjoy the cricketing action soon.