I hope our performances have inspired many young girls to play cricket, says Shikha Pandey – Playing at Lord’s was also a dream-come-true: Shikha
In this interview to DNA, India’s opening bowler Shikha Pandey tells G Krishnan the joy of playing her maiden World Cup. Excerpts:
Can you describe your maiden World Cup that culminated in the final at Lord’s?
It’s been a great learning experience. It was my first ODI World Cup and a great one. The journey has added a lot of moments to cherish. I don’t think many people thought we would get as far as we did, but as a team we believed. Every member of the squad who got a chance through the tournament put her hand up and contributed at different times. That’s how we reached the final. It was a real team effort. Playing at Lord’s was also a dream-come-true. The atmosphere of playing in a World Cup final in front of a packed house, I won’t ever forget.
How much did you enjoy bowling in the English conditions? Did you have to make adjustments?
Traditionally, when you think of England, one expects swing and bounce on the pitches. But they weren’t like that this time around. It was important to be very precise with the lengths and the pitches posed good challenge. For the fast bowlers, variation of pace was also something that came in to play more often than not.
What was it like to share the bowling attack with Jhulan Goswami? What are the lessons learnt?
To bowl alongside her is great. She is the highest wicket-taker in women’s ODI history and I have learnt a lot in terms of how consistent you need to be at international level and the amount of hard work that goes into it. She is always around, open to giving her opinions and helping the younger bowlers feel comfortable. She was someone I looked up to when I first got into the team, so to have the opportunity to share the new ball with her for the country is nothing short of a dream-come-true.
What was the best moment of this World Cup for you?
The game against New Zealand (India won by 186 runs). It showed our character and the grit we displayed in a virtual quarter final. Every single person in the team made a valuable contribution to help get us over the line. It all came together perfectly on the field.
What was the most exciting moment for you this World Cup – on the field of off it?
I am really excited by the brand of cricket that we played this World Cup. It was aggressive and confident. We have spoken a lot about how we want to play with a positive intent and improve with every game and it was great that we were able to execute it in a big tournament like the World Cup. I certainly hope that our performances have inspired many young girls to play cricket, and most importantly, I hope their parents support them.
What has been the turning point in your cricketing career?
The home series against South Africa in 2014 was a big breakthrough for me. Doing well with both bat and ball against a quality ODI team gave me real confidence (she scored 59 in each of the two matches she played and returned figures of 10-2-19-3 in the first and 4-0-21-0 in the second). It was the moment I felt like I had the ability to consistently do well at the international level as long as I keep putting in the hard yards.
What made you take up cricket?
I always loved playing cricket as a kid. So yes, it was the obvious choice. My father was a huge source of encouragement and never held me back from pursuing my dreams.
Who did you look up to in fast bowling?
As a kid, I had read a lot about Kapil Dev. Growing up, I liked Shaun Pollock for his all-round abilities. Fast bowling was something that just happened. I guess my height and build helped as well. But I enjoyed it from the very start and was encouraged by my coaches to stick with it.
Was it difficult coming up in cricket from a place like Goa?
I don’t think I could have played cricket for any other state than Goa. I credit Goa for all of my journey. The people here are very open minded and supportive. Overcoming difficulties is a part of the journey for any sportsperson in India, but I don’t remember any significant ones, though. I have had my family’s support through out.
Being an Air Traffic Control officer and playing cricket, how do you balance your careers?
I can’t thank Air Force Sports Control Board and Goa Cricket Association enough for making it easier for me to manage both. My college, Goa Engineering College helped me a lot, too, when I was still studying. I was lucky that I have had a very good support system that has helped me find a way to keep chasing me dreams. Whether at home, in college or at work, people have always encouraged and supported me along the way – that’s something that is very important for all sportspersons.
You wanted to fly aircrafts but ended up becoming an ATC officer. Do you still aspire to be a pilot?
I fancied becoming a pilot, but I am happy with what I am doing right now. I consider myself very lucky to be able to do what I love the most.
At 28, how long do you see yourself playing cricket and what are your goals?
I haven’t really set a goal for myself. I simply want to keep improving all facets of my game and continue to make contributions to the team’s cause. Till the time I am physically and mentally fit, I shall take pride in representing India.
Shikha Pandey in numbers
Matches 32 7
Wickets 45 8
Best 4/34 3/23
Average 19.46 26.60
Economy 3.72 4.32
Strike Rate 31.3 32.2
Did You Know?
Shikha Pandey, who made her international debut in 2014, has two ODI fifties, both coming against South Africa in Bengaluru with identical scores of 59