Andhra was required 26 runs in 30 balls with 5 wickets in hand and their last hope, Hima Bindhu was batting on 23. Jhulan Goswami, Bengal skipper brought Deepti Sharma to the attack and three balls later Hima Bindhu got run out. From there, Andhra Pradesh team crumbled under the intense pressure of the final which was under their control till 30th over. Bengal dugout erupted in joy as they won the Senior One Day Tournament by 10 runs. That victory for Bengal was no less than fairy tales and the one who believed in that was their consultant Rituparna Roy who will be working as  assistant coach of the team  in the upcoming season.

In 2017 December, Goa defeated Bengal in the Plate group of Inter-state One Day Championship. But that didn’t deny Bengal to promote themselves in the Elite Group. Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) for the new season gave former Bengal Cricketer Rituparna Roy the responsibility to help the senior and Under -23 team. She had earlier coached Orissa, Gujrat, and Baroda. And within a year of taking responsibility, Bengal won One Day Championship in that two categories.

While speaking to Women’s CricInsight, she spoke about her playing career, the changing contour of the game, how she has evolved as a coach, and what were the key factors behind the success of the journey of Bengal under her guidance.

Reflecting on her earlier days, Rituparna said,” I was very much enthusiastic about various sports form my childhood. Growing up in a joint family has its pros. I used to indulge in my spare time, playing cricket, football, and even kite flying with my elder brothers. And during that time my interest in cricket started to grow. But during my childhood, women’s cricket coaching was not that popular. So, I travelled several coaching camps with my mother but failed to find any suitable one for girls.”

Her beginning was no less surprising. “One day I was playing with my brothers and Lopamudra Bhattacharya who had played for India noticed me. She called me and asked if I want to play cricket seriously or not. It is Lopamudra ma’am who introduced me to the technicalities and nuances of cricket. I started to play cricket in a club call Maniktala Cricket Club. Lopamudra ma’am and her brother used to run a club called ‘Agrani’ which now doesn’t exist. That club was quite popular among the girls. From there I gave trial for the Bengal U-19, gradually I played for Bengal Senior and East Zone as well. All credit must be given to Lopamudra Bhattacharya for my growth as a cricketer.”

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Rituparna Roy

With the trophy. Image: Facebook/Rituparna Roy

Like any other Bengali family of the late ’90s, Roy’s parents urged her daughter to make studies her topmost priorities more, her father being a professor. She was allowed to play any sports only after completing studies. However, that became a blessing in disguise for Roy as her higher studies help her in coaching as well.

In her words, I contained my studies which helped me shape my career in coaching as well. I had my Management degree from IISWBM and to be honest modern-day coaching requires a lot of studies on various fields-it can be video analysis or on biomechanics. So apart from your knowledge about cricket if one turns out to be a good writer and an orator, it eventually helps individuals in his/her coaching career.”

Her family as more or less supported by her passion for sports stated Roy. But like others, her father wasn’t too supportive at first but later on, the situation got changed. However, her mother backed her since the beginning and her father has started supporting her now as well. “It took time but honestly, everything is a journey and struggle in life and I enjoyed it. It makes an individual complete,” she said.

Rituparna Roy made her debut in the U-19 Bengal team in 1998 and played for senior Bengal team in 2000-01. In her debut match against Andhra, she made 23 with bat and picked up a wicket as well. She has made 365 runs at an average of 36.5 in first-class cricket for Bengal and East Zone while 676 runs in List A Cricket. In her debut in first-class cricket, she made 66 while opening against Assam in 2007, which Bengal won by an innings and 219 runs.

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Later, she played for India A in 2008 and coached India A in 2018 when Australia A visited India. She shared that when she started her career, women’s cricket was nowhere in the radar and that’s why she wanted to become a coach who can “cater to the holistic development of a player.”

She expressed, “I feel that role of a coach does not end with the technicalities of the cricket but at the same time, a coach needs to look after the physiological and physiological aspects of her player as well. So, after my degree in management, I went to England for a one-year course in Sports Coaching degree and I completed ECB level II.

I studied at Loughborough University. ECB has also set up a high-performance centre at Loughborough University and I also had my internship under an ECB head coach, as a part of my course. There I got the chance to work with players like Amy Jones and Anya Shrubsole, and it has been a great learning experience for me.”

Rituparna Roy

At Loughborough University. Image: Facebook/Rituparna Roy

Rituparna Roy further added that cricket has to turn out to be competitive than earlier days. She also explained that there is no dearth of talent in the Bengal team as Tanushree Sarker has been playing for India A for quite some time, although she shifted her base to Railways in the last season. Moreover, Richa Ghosh, despite her young age, has made her debut for India.

Even there are the stalwarts like Jhulan Goswami, Rumeli Dhar, or even Priyanka Roy who has donned the blue. According to her, “one needs to be consistent and competitive with her performances at the highest level to secure the place in the national colour for longer times.”

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Rituparna Roy, who has been recently appointed as Coach of Bengal Women team for upcoming seasons, will look forward to another successful stint. She has been a part of various state teams and said that while choosing any coach or support staff, gender should not be an area of concern for any board. India have already seen quality women coaches with the likes of Purnima Rau, Sudha Shah, Anju Jain, Devieka Palshikaar etc. Notably, under Jain and Palshikaar Bangladesh team have reached a new height after winning the Asia Cup in 2018.

“Bangladesh under the guidance of Anju Jain and Devieka Palshikaar defeated India in Asia Cup which was headed by male support staff. So, it is not about your gender but about the right person. India has very good women coaches and with the passing days, we can see them with the major coaching assignments, even in the men’s team. Things are changing and, it’s all about acceptability. If the credential of a coach is good enough, we will be able to see a women coach in a men’s team as well, soon,” added the coach.

While speaking about her coaching experience in different state teams, she said that every team has a different culture and environment which provides with a chance to explore and evolve. She further claimed that despite belonging from the orthodox social condition in Gujrat girls have come out to play cricket which is definitely a good sign for Indian cricket.

Odisha, Gujrat, Vidarbha, or Baroda- girls from these states have immense potential. Maybe the teams didn’t click as a whole but, that doesn’t undermine their efforts. Vidarbha qualified for the T-20 Semifinal this season and Bengal won the One-day championship in t20 categories last year. So, I am enjoying my work very much,” she shared.

Rituparna Roy

With the Bengal Team. Image: Facebook/Rituparna Roy

In 2018-19 season, Bengal completed an unprecedented treble – winning Inter-state One Day Tournaments in U-19, U-23, and Senior Category. One of the silver linings in the Senior Bengal’s title-winning campaign was their victory over Railways. All the trump cards of Rituparna Roy played their part in that match with the support from the others.

Jhulan Goswami delivered an excellent spell (9-3-9-3) while Subhlaxmi Sharma wrapped up the top order with her 5/48. Subhalxami who joined Bengal side for a season took 16 wickets in 11 matches. Deepti Sharma, who had been phenomenal with her all-round performances for Senior and U-23 team scored  85 and picked up the prized wicket of Mihali Raj in the middle over.

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To her presence of a player like Jhulan Goswami was a huge boost for the team. As per Roy, Goswami not only gives you wickets or runs but boost the environment of the team psychologically also. It takes immanence courage to beat a team like Railways which has many international players.

Roy said, “To beat a strong team like railways -it’s the self believe that matters the most. We all believed even the support staff that we can beat Railways. I guess that belief materialized and affected the performance on the field. At the same time, the presence of players like Deepti Sharma, Jhulan Goswami, or even Subhalami Sharma who had played for India was a plus point for us. Deepti had performed exceptionally well in the -23 that year including a title-winning performance in the final.”

Bengal who won the Inter-state One Day Championship in 2018-19, was promoted in the Elite Group only that year. Roy as consultant feels apart from the good performances in the fields there were a lot of developments taking place which often we tend to overlook. We only cheer the extraordinary performances but to Roy, success in cricket or any other sports is a process.

It depends on many other aspects like Long Term Athlete Development, the role of the association, the existence of a positive environment in the team-to name a few of them. Grass-root development, regular talent hunt, and grooming of the players are the key factors for a state to become a strong team. It not about immediate success but one state needs to go through the continuous development process to get the desired result.

Rituparna Roy

With the Bengal Team. Image: Facebook/Rituparna Roy

She said, “After I got the responsibilities of the team, I made a yearlong plan that worked according to it. We went to Baroda for playing Practice matches. We organized a fitness camp. In recent times when cricket is getting fast, fitness plays an important role. One needs to have a fit body to have a positive mind setup, physical and psychological endurance need to depend on each other.

We worked on that too so that despite exhaustion we don’t lose the match fitness. CAB provided us with a masseur which also actually helped us. So, it’s a culmination of a good environment, the relationship between players and support staff, good performances in the field, and a team effort led to the success in that season.”

While talking about the difference in age groups Roy said that the main difference lies in the experience of a particular player in the U-23 team. As a coach, one needs to identify talents and give the support to that player along with technics as a slight adjustment that can create a huge difference in her performance.

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“A coach needs to give one more scenario in the practice sessions to prepare for the match. For the senior team, the role of coaches becomes more minute as senior players are well aware of their strengths and weaknesses and coaches are there to fine-tune,” further shared the former Bengal player.

Since the entire world has been struggling with the current situation because of COVID-19 pandemic, she advised the players and individuals to not get mentally down with that. She said that human existence is like a roller coaster and everyone needs to manage, experience and explore themselves as well. She further added that one can’t win every day but learn to accept the defeat and move on. And, she believes the role of the coach gets important when he/she can create a positive environment in the team.

Rituparna Roy, who has recently resigned as the coach of Vidarbha, said that the decision came after looking at the present scenario of her family as both of her mom and dad are aged and they need her to stay by their side. However, she enjoyed working with Vidarbha.

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