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In the Zone - North

Trainees from local academy relish bowling to international women cricketers

A bunch of trainee cricketers from the Chandigarh-based Leaders in Cricket (LIC) Academy are having a time of their life as they make the most of the opportunity to interact with international women cricketers who are here to play in the ICC Women’s World T20. The tournament which is taking place in India has not only provided these young women a chance to meet the top cricketers in the world, but also bowl to them in the nets at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) in Mohali.

Around eight women trainees of the LIC Academy have been given the opportunity by the PCA to come to the stadium and bowl to the visiting teams like Sri Lanka, Ireland and New Zealand.

It was a moment of glory for Punjab leg-spinner Rajni Kumari when she rattled Sri Lanka’s Yasoda Mendis’ stumps after beating the SL captain Chamari Attapattu during the practice sessions. Speaking about bowling to the Sri Lankans, New Zealand and Ireland cricketers, the excited spinner said, “It has been five years since I started playing cricket at the academy. We have never seen international women cricketers come here (Mohali) for matches. So for us, it is a treat to watch the heavy-weights play here. The PCA gave us a chance to bowl at them in the nets and we grabbed it with both hands. Some of the Ireland cricketers were surprised to see us bowl well. It was like a dream come true for me when I bowled to the New Zealand captain and all-rounder Suzie Bates. What an exceptional cricketer she is! The cricketers were generous to even chat with us after the practice sessions. It was amazing to be able to beat the Sri Lankan cricketers when they batted.”

The PCA Stadium has hosted two women’s matches till now involving Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Ireland. The big match between India and West Indies women is slated to take place on March 27 in Mohali. The trainees of the LIC Academy are pumped-up and look forward to bowl to the Indian Women’s team. 

Fast bowler, Priyanka Guleria, who also plays for Punjab, can’t wait to see the Mithali Raj-led Indian team arrive in Mohali and start training. “It was an enriching experience to bowl to the international cricketers. While international men’s teams often travel to this part of the world, the women don’t. The World T20 has provided us with this chance (to interact with them). Not only did we bowl at them, posed for pictures with them, but we were able to watch them compete in front of us,” she said while talking about the experience.

“I am very excited to now bowl to the Indian cricketers when they arrive here for their match against West Indies. I admire fast bowler Jhulan Goswami a lot. I am super excited to meet her and see her in person. She is my role model,” she added.
The other trainees who bowled to the women cricketers in Mohali include Manisha Badhan, Nandini, Muskan and Suman Rajput.

Former hockey stalwarts to guard players, stadium in Mohali

Renowned former India hockey players - Gagan Ajit Singh and Rajpal Singh are in charge of security during the six ICC World T20 matches hosted by Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) in Mohali, as both are employees of the Punjab Police. It is not for the first time that former hockey players will be looking after the security during the cricket matches held here. According to a PCA official, these former hockey stalwarts have handled the security duties during matches earlier as well.

Gagan Ajit (35) is posted as Superintendent of Police (City), Mohali while former India hockey captain Rajpal is the DSP (Traffic) of the city.
Speaking about his role Gagan Ajit, who joined the police force in 2007 said, “It's always an honour to don the uniform. First we were serving country as sportsperson, now we are serving the nation through the police force. We hope to deliver the goods in this capacity too.” He was also part of the Indian teams that competed during 2000 and 2004 Olympics.

Such former hockey players who are employed with Punjab Police have worked extensively with PCA in the past too for providing security during matches. 

Apart from Ireland, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and India women’s teams, Pakistan, New Zealand, Australia and India men’s teams have either visited or will be visiting the venue in coming days. The security force that involves former hockey players is focusing on security of players, public and managing gates. Former India Hockey captain, Rajpal Singh, who had led the team to a Sultan Azlan Shah trophy, a first ever Commonwealth Games medal and an Asian Men’s Hockey Champions Trophy title, also expressed a feeling of honour in pursuing his duties. 

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In the zone – West

Baroda’s Ninad Rathva impresses in the U-19 Cooch Behar Trophy

It is quite fascinating that left-arm spinners finished as the leading wicket-takers in the Col CK Nayudu and the Cooch Behar Trophies in 2015-16. Both youngsters belong to the West Zone in India’s domestic circuit. Maharashtra Under-23s Satyajeet Bachhav topped the charts in the Col CK Nayudu Trophy, whereas Ninad Rathva led the way for Baroda Under-19s’ in the Cooch Behar Trophy.

If you hear both speak, it is a similar story; both bowlers had set off on the same path before turning to spin. Like Bachhav, Rathva too began as a fast bowler in his younger days before accidentally stumbling upon left-arm spin. Speaking to BCCI.TV, the U-19 spinner said, “I started playing when I was six years old. I was a fast bowler but then in a school tournament, I bowled spin as there was no spinner. The coach then asked me to focus on this and (said) that it would be good. Since then I am bowling left-arm spin.” He is a product of Kiran More’s academy and has been training there since the age of six. He looks up to India all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja. While he has impressed with his bowling, the youngster also works on his batting and maintains a positive approach to the craft.

Rathva finished the season with 63 wickets from eight matches comprising seven five-fors and four ten-wicket hauls. The next highest wicket-taker, Shanu Saini has 23 scalps lesser than the Baroda lad — a statistic that reflects his dominance. So what worked for the left-arm spinner this year? “I worked on my accuracy. I used to do target bowling and bowl more in the nets,” he replied. Describing his style, he said, “I try to spin the ball. The flight I get is normal.”

With a phenomenal season behind him, Rathva will be keen to make it to the next level. With that in mind, his focus is on improvement and putting in the hard yards.

Mumbai’s youngsters rub shoulders with players from England and South Africa

The ICC World T20 warm-ups took place in Mumbai last week with a few big contests at the Wankhede Stadium. A short distance away, the Brabourne Stadium hosted two more warm-up games in a quieter atmosphere. The Mumbai Cricket Association XI played against England and South Africa on March 14 and 15 respectively. The MCA XI were led by Shreyas Iyer, who is coming off a fantastic season for Mumbai in the domestic circuit. The team also included the likes of Akhil Herwadkar, Shardul Thakur, Jay Bista and Armaan Jaffer to name a few; not to forget the 44-year-old, Pravin Tambe, whose enthusiasm and spirit puts him at par with any youngster.

In the first match, England’s David Willey, Jos Buttler, James Vince and Adil Rashid turned up for the MCA XI and all four of them put in good performances against their own team. Rashid helped MCA XI dismiss the England openers who threatened to run away with the game. Willey then took a hat-trick in the last over during England’s batting while Vince scored 45 to guide the run-chase and Buttler’s aggressive knock gave England a scare towards the end.

However, the stand-out performer of the match was Bista, who was riding on the confidence of a good season including a century in the Irani Cup for the senior Mumbai team in the previous week. Taking on an international attack, he played with authority during his 37-ball 51-run knock which included five fours and two sixes. Along with Iyer, he put together a 57-run opening stand in the powerplay and impressed with his attacking approach.

The following day, the MCA XIs played against Faf du Plessis-led South Africa. This time JP Duminy, Farhaan Behardien, David Weise and Imran Tahir were part of the MCA XI team. In this game, Herwadkar stood out with a 61-run knock while opening the batting to help set the stage for a respectable total. With some valuable contributions down the order, the team notched up 188 for four. Jaffer hit an unbeaten 12-ball 24 in an unbroken 57-run stand with Weise. Though South Africa chased the total down with ease, thanks to AB de Villiers and du Plessis, the MCA XI did have positives to take. The match gave the youngsters, who have been making their presence felt in the domestic circuit an opportunity to face-off and test themselves against some of the best in the business. 

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