India’s potential Test debutantes: Where were they in November 2014?
When India take the field against England on June 16, 2021 – the first day of the one-off Test at the County Ground in Bristol – it will be 2401 days since they last played Test cricket. That’s exactly 343 weeks. They start almost right where they left off – on a Wednesday afternoon (IST, of course). It’s a perfect circle.
During the period between these Tests, the team has undergone plenty of change – in terms of personnel, coaching staff and style. And while far more experienced than the squad that travelled to England in 2014, India’s 18-member Test contingent has as many as 10 potential debutantes.
Ahead of that historic Test match – because all Tests women play deserve that moniker – Women’s CricZone looks at what the uncapped players were doing when Harmanpreet Kaur bamboozled South Africa with a scarcely believable nine-wicket haul all those years ago.
(Note: The ages displayed are as of November 19, 2014)
Sneh Rana (20 years, 9 months, 1 day)
India’s ODI cap no. 110 and T20I cap no. 45, off-spinner Sneh Rana had already collected four international wickets by November 2014. She earned her maiden call-up to the national side on the back of two solid seasons for Punjab in which she captured 32 List-A wickets, including a then career-best of 6 for 33 in the 2013-14 Challenger Trophy. Rana’s propensity to dry up the runs – as indicated by the 56 maidens she bowled in 42 fifty-over matches – made her an automatic pick in white-ball cricket.
Unfortunately, she lost her place in the side following her maiden series against Sri Lanka, only finding a way back in during India’s home series against New Zealand in 2015.
Priya Punia (18 years, 3 months, 30 days)
In November 2014, Priya Punia had batted only four times in List-A cricket. Having made her debut for Delhi in December 2013, an 18-year-old Punia had accumulated 29 runs at that level, and was still a month away from scoring her maiden List-A half century.
At the time, however, she had firmly established herself as one of Delhi’s premier batters in age-group cricket, with 834 runs in six seasons, including six half-centuries – four of which came in 2014.
Arundhati Reddy (17 years, 7 months, 9 days)
Having made her List-A debut for Hyderabad as a prodigious 12-year-old in January 2010, Arundhati Reddy had 12 List-A caps under her belt by November 2014. Although unable to find a permanent place in the senior side at the time, Reddy was a central figure in Hyderabad’s Under-19 team – even made captain at 15. She was also a consistent member of the South Zone Under-19 team, often taking the new ball and batting in the middle order.
Interestingly, it was in November 2014, that Reddy first watched her idol Jhulan Goswami bowl from close quarters – a moment that would further fuel her India dreams.
Deepti Sharma (17 years, 2 months, 26 days)
Deepti Sharma made her international debut merely 11 days after India thrashed South Africa in Mysore, earning her call-up on the back of a patient half-century against the visitors while playing for India A. At the Under-19 level, she had scored over 1100 runs for Uttar Pradesh and Central Zone.
Already a central figure in a young Uttar Pradesh senior side, a member of a star-studded Central Zone line-up and having taken part in a couple of India Under-19 camps, by November 2014, a 17-year-old Sharma was primed for her international debut.
Indrani Roy (17 years, 2 months, 14 days)
Seven years ago, Indrani Roy was training and playing in her home state of Bengal. Part of the state Under-19 side, she was still finding it difficult to find a consistent place in the playing XI, spending more time on the fringes than in the middle.
After spending three years in the system in Bengal and failing to break into the senior team, Roy would eventually go on to represent Jharkhand from 2018.
Taniya Bhatia (16 years, 11 months, 22 days)
Just days shy of her 17th birthday, by November 2014, Taniya Bhatia had already snuck on to the radar of the national selectors. She had six seasons of Under-19 cricket under her belt, and had already made both her List-A (2011) and T20 (2013) debuts for Punjab.
In June-July that year, she found herself as part of the Smriti Mandhana-led India C squad for the selection matches ahead of India’s tour of England. Serving as an understudy to senior pro Karuna Jain, Bhatia got little game-time, but she showed plenty of spunk with the gloves and the bat in the two games that she played. In October 2014, she was handed the captaincy of the Punjab Under-19 team, becoming one of their youngest captains at the time. Almost a veteran of Under-19 cricket by then, the wicketkeeper-batter had accounted for 54 dismissals in 44 matches, also scoring 645 runs.
Pooja Vastrakar (15 years, 1 month, 25 days)
By November 2014, a 15-year-old Pooja Vastrakar had already taken the new ball for Madhya Pradesh in five of the six List-A matches she had played. The right-arm seamer took a splendid 4 for 25 only in her second game, but struggled to find any wickets after that.
At the Under-19 level, she had limited success as well, only accounting for 13 wickets in three seasons. But her pace with the ball, and brute power with the bat, meant she was propelled into the India Under-19 camp at the National Cricket Academy in 2014.
Radha Yadav (14 years, 6 months, 29 days)
In November 2014, Radha Yadav was still an unknown quantity on the senior circuit. Struggling to find a place in the Mumbai setup, Yadav would have to wait another couple of months to play her first professional match in January 2015. She finally moved to Baroda for the 2015-16 season, making a more permanent place for herself at all levels – the beginning of her rather meteoric rise.
Jemimah Rodrigues (14 years, 2 months, 14 days)
In November 2014, Jemimah Rodrigues was still a month away from making her List-A debut. Only 14-years-old at the time, the right-hander was only a couple of seasons into her Under-19 career for Mumbai. At that level, she scored 409 runs, including a best of 80 in just her second game for the state. Her ability to occupy the crease for long periods – she had batted a total of 129.5 overs in 14 matches for Mumbai Under-19 until that point – meant she entrenched herself at the top of their order.
While Rodrigues was still waiting to make a splash in the senior circuit, this writer recollects a conversation with a then national selector, who, at the time, was convinced Mumbai had unearthed a gem.
Shafali Verma (10 years, 9 months 22 days)
Only 10-years-old at the time, Shafali Verma had not even made her way into the women’s cricket system in November 2014. Still an unknown quantity, even within her state, India would have to wait another four years to catch a glimpse of her devastating power.