“The sound of the ball hitting the middle of the bat is an emotion”: Theertha Satish

Theertha Satish © Fairbreak Twitter

When UAE’s juggernaut eased past its final roadblock in the form of Thailand in the summit clash of the U19 T20 World Cup Asia Qualifiers 2022, on Thursday, June 9, the whole ambience of the Kinrara Oval changed dramatically.

The ground that was wreathed in tranquility during UAE’s chase till the 17th over, barring the occasional cheers from the Thai players every time a UAE batter was dismissed in pursuit of 85, had suddenly come to life.

The hard-fought win saw the UAE players set off in a frenzy from their dugout towards the middle. They were shrieking in merriment and immense euphoria as UAE, known more for its skyscrapers than its cricket, had inscribed its name in cricketing history.

The Arab nation had earned the opportunity to be a part of the inaugural women’s U19 T20 World Cup 2023 in South Africa – an achievement worth its weight in gold.

As the realisation of the remarkable feat started sinking in with every second that flew past, the faces that shrieked with happiness were seen shedding tears of joy.

The whole setting had elements of a theatrical play that had just seen its denouement. Among the ones shedding pearls of joy were also the parents of some of the UAE players who had flown to Malaysia to support their kids and ended up witnessing their daughters script history.

“I wasn’t expecting so many people to cry from my team, but all of them ended up crying and it was an unreal feeling. Everyone had chills down the spine. The parents were crying and yeah, we were just super happy. We couldn’t believe we had beaten them (Thailand) and were actually going to the World Cup. I was speechless and it still hasn’t sunk in for me yet,” said Theertha Satish, who was the engine room of the unit that scripted history in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, June 9.

Both UAE and Thailand were being deemed as the favourites to win the event from the outset and that’s what eventually happened as the two teams made the final. The game saw UAE’s left-arm speedster Mahika Gaur make early inroads and as the other UAE bowlers chipped in too, Thailand could only manage 84. The chase, which appeared slightly tricky, had the parents of the UAE players sitting on the edge of their seats in prayers.

“It was a nerve-wracking match. My mom kept asking me, ‘why do you always increase my blood pressure’? Many parents saw their children cry and so they started crying as well. But as time progressed, all of our parents started congratulating each other and told us how proud they were of our achievement,” recalled Satish.

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Theertha Satish rejoicing © UAE Cricket /Instagram

18-year old Satish was born in Chennai, India and moved to UAE when she was five. The southpaw led her side from the front, opening the batting and finished as the highest run-getter of the tournament, with 175 runs in five matches at a stunning average of 87.50 and at an impressive strike rate of 131.57.

Despite doing exceedingly well within her age bracket, Satish as a batter looks far from satisfied with her game and has that zeal in her to achieve things that she thinks she lacks at the moment.

“I’m trying to work on occupying the crease for longer durations and mentally just staying throughout the game. With the heat and humidity as important factors, I think it’s more important to stay focused throughout the game. So switching on and off becomes really crucial.”

“One of the other things that I am working on is power-hitting. The ability to clear the boundaries and the other thing I guess is trying to be innovative and get those gaps and manipulate the field while batting in the middle.”

Batting is an art form and there are mostly two types of batters who display the art form. The ones who enter the nets and go hell for leather in short bursts and the others are purists, who just adore it to the core and can let go of any worldly pleasure to keep at it. Satish belongs to the latter category.

“The sound of the ball hitting the middle of the bat. There’s nothing that can beat that. It’s an emotion. I just feel happy doing it. Even if you are having a bad day or a good day, you still want to get up and you want to practice more of it and do more and put in the effort to get your game perfect. It’s that sort of a thing for me. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just something if I had the opportunity to keep doing, I would carry on doing it unless someone asked me to stop.”

Her batting was one of the major reasons behind UAE’s successful campaign in the qualifiers but the other thing that caught everyone’s eye was her leadership and rightfully so.

It was her aggressive field placement and her constant support that helped Gaur and Archara Supriya finish as the second and fifth-highest wicket-takers in the tournament.

But Satish doesn’t wish to take any credit for the same and exhibits humility – typical of a high-class leader.

“As a leader, I wasn’t doing much. Just a bit of field setting and that was it. The bowlers bowled really well throughout the tournament and were backed brilliantly by the fielders and that’s what ultimately brought us the success and helped us limit Thailand to 84 in the final.”

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Theertha Satish during Fairbreak 2022 © Fairbreak Twitter

Satish was one of the youngsters who got the wonderful opportunity to play in the Fairbreak Invitational 2022 tournament that featured some of the biggest names of the sport and didn’t let go of any opportunity to grab the learnings that came her way.

“It was really fun to see the routine of an internationally established cricketer and mindset-wise also what their thoughts are behind every match and how they take the game and the pre-match routines. It was really insightful and educative. Watching everything unfold in front of my eyes during the Fairbreak helped me grow both technically (as a batter) and mentally.”

“In the Fairbreak finals, we had lost two early wickets of Chamari (Athapaththu) and Danni (Wyatt) early on in the innings and at that time I think my mindset wasn’t exactly right. I had a different approach to the game and I wasn’t able to finish the game, but this time I learnt from my lesson from that and I tried something else that Mariko (Hill) did the other day in the finals and Marizanne Kapp did in the finals. I tried to implement that in the match against Thailand and it went well and yeah, I think that’s probably the greatest lesson I learnt.”

With the U19 World Cup scheduled to happen next year, Satish will have plenty more to learn on an individual level and from a team’s perspective as they will be rubbing shoulders against the best in their age category and the 18-year-old is cognizant of the same.

“I think it’s the best opportunity to get in this age category. I mean it’s the inaugural World Cup as well, so playing against the players from Test nations it’s a big deal and yeah, the experience we’re gonna get and the level of cricket we’re gonna be exposed to will be on a different level and we hope to play well as well and we can improve our cricket through this way and become a stronger team.”

From the outside, Satish might seem to be just an 18-year-old playing competitive cricket out there but her thinking reflects that down at the core of this 18-year-old lies a heart that beats for women’s cricket, and the game direly needs such ambassadors for it to flourish going ahead.

“I think it’s (U19 T20 World Cup 2023) such a good platform. I mean it’s good that they’ve (ICC) started now and I’m pretty sure as time goes by the standard of cricket and the level of cricket is just going to keep improving for the women’s game. Maybe not drastically, but with time it’s going to become as strong as the men’s game or even better. All the young girls now have something to look forward to and work forward to as well. So it’s a really good initiative and this would also help the senior women’s game with a better pool of players.”