Her next aim is to represent India in the senior women’s team: India U19 star Soumya Tiwari's father Manish Tiwari [Interview]

Soumya Tiwari scored the winning runs for India and helped her side clinch the inaugural U19 Women's T20 World Cup.

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Soumya Tiwari and her Father
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Soumya Tiwari and her Father. (Photo Source: Instagram/Soumya Tiwari)

The Indian Women’s Under 19 team scripted history by defeating England in the summit clash of the inaugural U19 Women’s T20 World Cup as the Women in Blue lifted the prestigious trophy. Team India topped the points table in the group stage and made their way into the Super Six. They showcased brilliant cricket and managed to top the points table in the Super Six as well, to make their way into the semi-final in style.

They faced New Zealand in the semi-final and confirmed their finale spot by winning the contest. India continued their dominance even in the final when they defeated England by seven wickets. The Shafali Verma-led side unlocked a major achievement as the team clinched the first-ever ICC title in the history of Indian women’s cricket. Women’s cricket in India has developed to its core, and with the preparations for the inaugural the Women’s Premier League underway, the future of cricket in India is bright.

Chasing a 69-run target in the final, India’s opening batters Shafali Verma and Shweta Sehrawat lost their wickets early in the powerplay. But Soumya Tiwari and Gongadi Trisha carried the game forward and built the innings steadily with their composed 46-run second-wicket partnership. Soumya scored the winning runs for India as the Women in Blue clinched the championship title.

Soumya’s father Manish Tiwari spoke to CricTracker’s reporter Umesh Sharma in an exclusive interview after the game and shared some insights on the 17-year-old’s journey.

Here are the excerpts from the interview:

1.      When and how did Soumya’s journey begin? When did she tell you she wanted to become a cricketer?

Cricket is played in every gully. She started playing at a nearby ground. When she was a kid, she used to make a ball out of paper to play cricket at home. We used to live in a joint family in Shahjanabad in Old Bhopal, her elder sister used to bowl. Then she started playing with the plastic bats. Then we shifted to Gautam Nagar, and Soumya started playing at the ground. There used to be times when the other kids did not let her play. She used to come back home and complain that the other kinds did not let her field, or did not give her a chance to bowl.

My elder daughter then inquired at a nearby cricket academy and enrolled Soumya there for coaching. But when the coach got to know that she was a girl student, he refused to coach her. He said that their academy only has boys, and they won’t be able to train her. Soumya was very disappointed and was adamant about joining coaching classes to learn the sport. A couple of days later, her elder sister took her to the academy, requested the coach to take her in, and somehow convinced him and the coach agreed to train her during the summer break.

Meanwhile, the academy organized an inter-club tournament, and Soumya got an opportunity to showcase her fielding abilities. She gave her best performance and also took two catches in the game. That’s when they saw the potential in her, and that’s how Soumya started playing cricket professionally. She was around 10 and a half years old and was in the fifth grade.

2.      What was your reaction when she got selected for the Indian U19 team for the first time?

Before getting into the U19 side, she went for trials that were conducted by Bhopal’s senior division and got selected for the senior women’s side. So she went to Gwalior to play in her first tournament. That’s when her journey of playing professional cricket started. We could not get in touch with her for the first few days which put us in worry. We never restricted her from playing the sport and let her do what she wanted to do, whenever she said she wanted to go and play.

Then she attended a camp that was organized for U19 players, but felt bad when she couldn’t get into the side even after attending the camp. She started working harder, went on to become the captain of Madhya Pradesh’s U16 and U19 teams, and at the age of 13, she made her debut for Madhya Pradesh’s Under 23 team. At 14, she made her debut for Madhya Pradesh’s senior team. She played in the Senior Challenger tournament in 2020 and 2021. She played two Challengers for the state’s Under 19, she led Madhya Pradesh’s U19 T20 side to a victory in the domestic tournament in 2022.

3.      How was it to develop your daughter as a professional cricket amidst the psyche of typical societal barriers?

We consider both boys and girls equal and do not see any disparity. Soumya had been preparing for the U19 World Cup for the past three years. For the past 1.5 years, she has been traveling and training and hasn’t been with the family.  She was either at the NCA or MPCA. We used to travel to the state where she had been playing, and her focus was entirely on the World Cup. She admires Virat Kohli a lot and also has posters of him in her room. She proved herself with her game in the U19 World Cup final by playing the crucial knock after India lost two early wickets. The team had decided to give the championship cup to Shafali as her birthday gift, and they did it.

4.      What are the future plans for Soumya?

Till now, our target was to play in the Under 19 World Cup. Now that it has been achieved, her next aim is to represent India in the senior women’s team.

5.      Now that Soumya has shown immense growth in her game, what future do you see for Women’s cricket in India?

The BCCI has been doing really well on their part. Last year they announced equal match fee for male and female cricketers. The Women’s Premier League is going to be a wonder for women’s cricket in India. Mr. Jay Shah has been working extensively hard to promote women’s cricket, and he also announced INR 5 crore prize money for our girls who won the U19 World Cup. The future is very bright and what the BCCI is doing is really great.

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