Updated: Oct 14, 2019
It is that time of the year in Gujarat, where instead of cricket, people enjoy playing Garba and spending time with friends and family. However, skipping all the fun, for now, Saurashtra women are looking forward to make this season count and better their performance from the previous season.
Senior Women’s T20 League is scheduled to start from October 14 where Saurashtra women will begin their campaign against Goa in Rajkot.
In 2018-19, Senior Women's T20 League was held at Pondicherry for the Group E teams. Saurashtra women finished at the fifth position in eight teams. The question is, why are we discussing this team here, then? Because the same team two years before couldn't fetch a single win in the Plate Group and the very next year, the same team, more confident this time, gave a neck to neck fight to every team in Group E. As a result, they managed to take home four morale-boosting wins. The numbers are still not enough to justify the case. But, win or loss are just the part and parcel of the game, what remain etched in our memory forever is the audacity with which the battles were fought.
Amidst the struggles, the girls have been facing for all these years a few things have fallen in their way this year. Like a wonderful initiative "Women Cricket Tournament" organised by Navanagar District Cricket Association in June for all the Saurashtra districts and early camps than usual for Senior women ahead of the Women's T20 league by Saurashtra Cricket Association. Definitely, not a major overhaul, still a great step towards promoting women's cricket in the south western part of Gujarat.
Confident of their preparations, still, the biggest challenge for the Saurashtra team this year would be to fill the void created by their star batswoman Bhakti Shastri. It has come to light that she is planning to go for higher studies and, there is no confirmation on her return. Bhakti was the second-highest run-getter for Saurashtra after Jayu Jadeja in Women's T20 league last year and also part of some crucial partnerships in close games. She was a gem. A jewel in the crown to be precise. However, it leaves the team and its captain in a serious dilemma.
Moreover, Jayu Jadeja, who smashed 104* runs off 64 balls against the Cricket Association of Mizoram last year plundered 207 runs in 7 games, highest for Saurashtra. Whereas in bowling, Neha Chavda (11 wickets in 7 games) and Reena Dhabi (7 wickets in 6 matches) were the stars.
This doesn't tell the entire story of the team which has more match-winners in Riddhi Ruparel - a fantastic young talent, Mridula Jadeja - captain and most experienced player, Pooja Nimavat - Boom Boom girl, Nirali Oza - tricky off-spinner and some young and raw talents like Pooja Modhwadia, Tanya Rao and Reena Mota.
In 2018-19, for the major part of the tournament, Jayu and Mridula opened the innings while Pooja played as a floater. Bhakti and Riddhi also switched places as per the demands of the situation. Now, with Bhakti not in the squad and a new batter to replace her, Saurashtra has to figure out the possible batting combinations at the top.
Laced with some serious names in domestic cricket Saurasthra women will take the field tomorrow with the dawn of new hope, a fresh season and handful of memories.