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WPL 2: RCB leggie Sobhana Asha revels in late spotlight

The 32-year-old spinner from Kerala took five wickets to bowl RCB to a two-run win over UP Warriorz on Saturday. Skipper Mandhana gifted her bat in appreciation

Royal Bangalore Challengers (RCB) leg-spinner Sobhana Asha Joy set the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru alight on Saturday evening with her match-winning five-wicket haul against UP Warriorz in the Women’s Premier League (WPL). With this stellar show which paved the way for RCB’s two-run win won the hearts of millions of fans and earned the admiration of captain Smriti Mandhana, who gifted Asha one of her bats on Sunday.

Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Sobhana Asha (R) celebrates with teammates the dismissal of UP Warriorz’s Shwetha Sehrawat during the Women’s Premier League (WPL) (AFP)

“I am so excited with Smriti’s gesture. I will always keep this bat as a cherished gift. Also, I have kept the match ball with which I took those Warriorz wickets. Saturday evening turned out to be memorable for me. I do not want to get overenjoyed with the first WPL outing. I now shift my focus to the next game,” said a delighted Asha, who became the first Indian player to bag a five-wicket haul in WPL.

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RCB’s first match in WPL 2 has brought the 32-year-old from Thiruvananthapuram into spotlight, after toiling for 15 years. “A lot has gone into it during the last 15 years. But hard work has always paid off and I am happy to have helped RCB win the game. Infact I was thinking of quitting cricket some months before the inaugural WPL came into the picture. RCB scouts were impressed with my bowling and told me to keep bowling the way I do. So, I kept going on,” shared Asha, who played five matches for RCB last season and took five wickets. She was bought by the franchise for ₹10 lakh in the action ahead of the first WPL season.

With Shweta Sehrawat and Australia power-hitter Grace Harris in red-hot form, Warriorz were inching towards the target of 158 runs when the ball was thrown to Asha to bowl the 17th over. Riding on the confidence of having bowled a tight line and length and taken the wickets of Dinesh Vrinda and Tahila McGrath, Asha targetted the in-form duo.

The clinical over fetched Asha three wickets, breaking the 77-run partnership between Sehrawat and Harris with the former’s scalp. Asha ended the onslaught of Harris as well by removing her, and then sent back Kiran Navgire.

“I was prepared to go out there and do my thing. The captain and the coach showed faith in me and I got lucky. I knew I would get Harris’ wicket,” said Asha, who played a decade for Indian Railways along with Puducherry and Kerala in the domestic circuit.

Daughter of an auto driver, life wasn’t easy for Asha, who as a young girl would play with rolled paper balls and bats fashioned out of the coconut leaf stem, copying Sachin Tendulkar’s batting style. It was when her schoolteacher asked her seventh standard pupil to appear for district trials that she began taking cricket seriously.

“During those trials I did not return home till 7pm and my parents were at the police station, filing a complaint. My parents are very simple and god fearing. They recharged the DTH connection on Saturday only to watch me in action,” said Asha, who was awestruck a few months ago when she bumped into Anil Kumble at the ground.

“I told him I had seen him on TV taking those 10 wickets in an innings against Pakistan,” said Asha, who loves Kumble and Shane Warne, but idolises Australia leggie Stuart McGill.

Asha came into WPL 2 after top-notch preparation, fitness and skill-wise. “RCB held regular fitness camps, and practice matches from time to time. This helped me prepare well for the season. WPL has been a huge platform for domestic cricketers like me. It is helping us so much. I never dreamt I would be sharing a dressing room with Sophie Devine or Elysse Perry,” said Asha, who would also be eyeing an India spot as there is no leg-spinner in the national team.


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