India's Sneh Rana appeals for wicket against England Action Images via Reuters/Rebecca Naden (Action Images via Reuters) Exclusive
India's Sneh Rana appeals for wicket against England Action Images via Reuters/Rebecca Naden (Action Images via Reuters)

With a successful Test debut, Sneh Rana pays homage to father

Bhagwan Singh Rana would cycle 10-12km every day to help his daughter learn cricket. He died two months ago
UPDATED ON JUN 17, 2021 07:30 PM IST

Sneh Rana looked at the Bristol sky after getting the India cap from Mithali Raj before play began on Wednesday, the first of the four-day Test against England. The off-spinner was thanking her father Bhagwan Singh Rana who had died after a cardiac arrest.

By stumps, Rana, 27, had made her father proud by giving India crucial breakthroughs with three wickets. That she was making a comeback to international cricket after five years made the Test debut even more special.

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“I lost him two months back, just before the team was announced. It was a bit emotional and a bit difficult out there because he really wanted to see me play for India again. He really wanted to see me in that India jersey again, but unfortunately he couldn’t. It is a part of life. Whatever I have done since and whatever I am able to do for India after today, I will always dedicate it to my father,” said Rana, speaking to the media after stumps.

Rana grew up playing tennis-ball cricket in a village named Sinola near Dehradun. As a teenager and following a successful trial, Rana learnt the sport at Little Masters Cricket Academy in Dehradun. A farmer by profession, her father would cycle 10-12 km every day to drop Rana at the academy.

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“Losing a parent is always devastating. Sneh was broken when I told her on the phone that papa is no more. She was in Amritsar at the time. After a month, when we got to know that she has been selected in all formats for the England tour we were thrilled. Sneh was close to father and the grief of losing him still bothers her but she wants to continue playing for India and make papa proud,” said Ruchi, Rana’s sister.

Rana was recalled to the India team after a fantastic performance in the women’s one-day tournament. Representing Railways, she claimed 18 wickets in eight matches.

Having captained Railways and also played for Punjab, Rana had made her ODI and T20 debut against Sri Lanka in 2014. She then missed all of 2016 due to a niggling knee injury.

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“I had a tough time dealing with the injury. But I was hopeful and kept working hard and aiming for a comeback. A lot of people my age think they won’t be able to make a comeback, or that staging a comeback at the highest level gets tougher by the day. So, I hope, I have been able to inspire someone today with this. I do not think one should ever give up,” said Rana, who has played seven ODIs and five T20s for India.

India were playing a Test after seven years but the squad in England has specialist spinners in Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav and Ekta Bisht. Despite having left-arm spinners and a leg-spinner, India opted for Rana. And she justified her selection by bowling tight spells. Raj showed faith in her Railways teammate’s bowling and gave Rana 29 overs on Day 1. No Indian bowled as much. She was even given the second new ball.

Batting on 66, Tammy Beaumont was Rana’s first wicket and it ended a 71-run stand. After Nat Sciver was dismissed by Deepti Sharma, Rana ensured there would be no letup in pressure by scalping wicket-keeper Amy Jones (1). From 230/2, England were 236/6. Again, soon after Knight fell on 95 to Sharma, Rana dismissed Georgia Elwiss (5). Sharing four wickets, the off-spinners had reduced England to 251/6. England were 269/6 at close of play and Rana the most successful bowler with figures of 29.1-4-77-3.

With the Bristol wicket offering assistance, Rana felt sticking to the basics did the trick. “The pitch was a bit slow right from the early stage of the game. It did help spinners since it was turning a bit. I did not try anything extra except for just sticking to my strengths. And I’m glad it worked out for us,” she said.

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