Women's World Cup 2022: Why Deepti Sharma could be key to India’s hopes
- Deepti Sharma is a bankable spin option and has recorded the highest score for an Indian in ODIs.
Since her India debut in 2014, Deepti Sharma has kept it simple. Train hard is her mantra and with it, the player from Agra has emerged India’s most successful all-rounder.
Though she has been consistent with bat and ball and has played The Hundred and WBBL, Sharma isn’t usually in the limelight. This despite her 188 against Ireland in 2017 being the highest for an Indian in ODIs. That knock came when she opened the batting.
The daughter of a retired Railways employee, Sharma did well in the ICC 2017 World Cup in England where India reached the final. She scored 216 runs and her off-breaks fetched 12 wickets. Since then, there has been no looking back for the 24-year-old.
For the last two ODIs against New Zealand before the 50-over World Cup, where India start against Pakistan on Sunday, Sharma was vice-captain to Mithali Raj. As batters barring Raj struggled against New Zealand, Sharma hammered an unbeaten 69 in the fourth ODI. The southpaw then made 51 against West Indies in a World Cup warm-up game.
Sharma said that she changed her style of batting in New Zealand. “I used to bat with a side-on stance. I worked on handling short balls and also on my off-side game as well and it’s been helpful.”
She also took 10 wickets in the ODI series. Speaking after the fourth ODI, Sharma said: “I did a lot of single stump bowling and focused on getting my rhythm. Once I did that, it was all about using the variations right.”
With 1720 runs and 79 wickets in 69 ODIs, Sharma has had a steady rise. While Indian spinners like Poonam Yadav, Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad have struggled for form, she has emerged a bankable spin option. That led to BCCI elevating her to Grade A in the annual contracts for 2021-22. She also got the Arjuna award this year.
In 2017, Sharma shifted from Uttar Pradesh to Bengal in search of better opportunities. She is a top-order batter for Bengal.
Former India cricketer and former chief selector Hemlata Kala, 46, said: “Deepti has been phenomenal with her consistency. I would rate her as the world’s best all-rounder. It has been a conscious effort from her to stay away from social media and just keep training hard. This is the reason she has been able to maintain her consistency.”
It was Kal who spotted Sharma when she was nine and had come to Agra’s Eklavya Cricket Academy. Kala was impressed by the way Sharma threw the ball and fielded. She started as a medium-pacer, but later on became an off-spinner.
Teams like Australia, England and New Zealand have a number of experienced all-rounders going into the World Cup. For India a lot rides on Sharma.
“Deepti’s performances with bat and ball will provide India the much needed impetus and she will be India’s trump card in the World Cup,” said Kala, who played 78 ODIs for India and scored 1023 runs.