A mixed bow as India cricketer for Uma Chetry


Uma Chetry received her India cap from one of her idols – Harmanpreet Kaurf ©BCCI

Uma Chetry has two cricketing idols: MS Dhoni and Harmanpreet Kaur. It was fitting that on the 43rd birthday of one of them, on Sunday (July 7), Chetry got her maiden India cap from the other at Chepauk. It couldn’t have gotten any better for the 21-year-old. But, barely 10 balls into life as ‘India wicketkeeper’, Chetry was in the spotlight.

Sajana Sajeevan, one of India’s four changes on the night after the 12-run loss to South Africa in the T20I series opener, had been thrown the new ball by her India, and Mumbai Indians, captain Harmanpreet. A loopy offbreak outside off drew Tazmin Brits out of her crease but she was beaten in the flight. Chetry was quick behind the stumps to collect the ball and whip the bails off. A bit too quick, maybe.

Eagerness, or nerves, got the better of Chetry as multiple replays showed a part of her glove being ahead of the stumps while collecting the ball. Brits, after playing a match-defining hand of 81 on Friday, survived this chance on 5 and went on to make another vital half-century contribution in South Africa’s 177.

In under 10 seconds, the jubilation had turned into anguish for India. Chetry threw her head back in disappointment. So did Smriti Mandhana, before giving her a pat on her helmet and asking her to move on. Deepti Sharma too offered words of encouragement, asking Chetry to keep her calm.

It was agonising for Sajana too, who thought she’d delivered a crucial early breakthrough and, in the process, picked up her maiden wicket in India colours. There were no consolations for her as she collected the ball from the umpire, and quietly returned to the top of her mark. Sajana had to now deliver a free-hit. Brits smacked two more boundaries in the over that would turn out to be Sajana’s only one in the game.

Such was the game that there was room for redemption for Chetry, albeit 12 overs and 47 runs later. Shortly after the fifty, Brits gave Deepti the charge and went through with the expansive cross-batted shot a touch early and missed. Chetry grabbed the ball low, adjusting quickly and well behind the sticks this time before ramming it onto them with a loud cry for an appeal. Her roar that accompanied the wicket celebrations said it all.

Chetry has been around in the India A set-up for a year now, even winning the Emerging Asia Cup last year, but Sunday was for all practical purposes, her first experience of high-stakes cricket. Her fate in WPL 2024 was sealed the moment she was signed as a replacement player by UP Warriorz, led by one of the finest ‘keepers of the generation, Alyssa Healy. Expectedly, she served drinks mostly, and got just one game towards the end of the season.

While she is among the ‘targetted group’ in India’s vast talent pool, Chetry is currently third in line for the wicketkeeping throne, behind Richa Ghosh and Yastika Bhatia. If the latter’s recovery stays on track, the Assam-born would likely be toiling in the domestic circuit in October when the national team heads to Bangladesh for the T20 World Cup.

Ghosh’s concussion-forced absence had paved the way for Chetry’s international debut, after filling in as a substitute two nights ago. She’d also subbed in for Jemimah Rodrigues for more than two sessions in the one-off Test exactly a week ago, fielding at short-leg for better part of her 70-overs out in the humidity but never giving up despite coping body blows.

“I was really happy when she got that debut cap,” Munish Bali, India’s fielding coach said. “In the Test, she fielded for more than 70-80 overs. She is a brave, brave girl. First game, standing at short-leg is not an easy job especially in women’s cricket because they’re not used to playing so much of red-ball cricket. She got hit by the ball also, and she still she stood there. Normally, a player would have come out and rested a bit but she was in the middle, trying her best.

“And, you know what she told me after getting hit? ‘If I would have instead held on to that catch, it would have been amazing’. She was in pain but she was still thinking about that chance. That’s a lovely attitude to have. She is a real hard-worker from what we’ve seen in the practice sessions also. I was truly happy for her to eventually complete that Brits’s stumping tonight.”

In the absence of India’s (most-recent) No. 3, there was scope for further redemption for the top-order batter had the Chennai rains relented. As things stand, Day 1 in the office was less than ideal but Chetry should keep her chin up with the belief that the worst is out of the way.

© Cricbuzz

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