IND W v ENG W: A fighter to the core, Deepti makes the most of her opportunities

As she fielded in the slip cordon while fellow off-spinner Sneh Rana bowled in England Women’s first innings in the one-off Test at the DY Patil Stadium on Friday, Deepti Sharma was plotting how she will ball when called into action by skipper Harmanpreet Kaur.

She went on to use that knowledge to claim her maiden five-wicket haul in Women’s Test cricket on Friday, coming up with one of the most economical bowling figures by an Indian bowler.

Deepti, who bats left-handed and bowls with her right hand, is a thinking cricketer who tries to study her teammates and also bowlers from the opponent teams, to plan her bowling.

Having batted for a fair bit of time in scoring 67 that helped India score 428 in their first innings, the 26-year-old from Agra, Uttar Pradesh, put into practice her learnings when she was given the ball rather late by skipper Harmanpreet.

She struck in her first over, claiming the wicket of Danni Wyatt and then went on to bag her first fifer in Test cricket, returning with figures of five wickets for seven runs in the six overs (5.2-4-7-5).

“While I was fielding in the slips, I was thinking of the areas that I would like to bowl when given the ball. I was not frustrated that Sneh was pressed into attack before me. I knew that I would get my chance and therefore worked in my mind what I would do when bowling,” said Deepti in the post-day press conference on Friday.

Cutting down on pace to extract sharp turn at times on a pitch on which the ball was keeping low, the short-statured Deepti tossed up her deliveries, got a good loop going and mixed them with straight ones to keep the batters guessing. She completely bamboozled the England batters, who had no idea how to tackle her.

Deepti, a fighter to the core, on Friday also claimed the wickets of Amy Jones (12), Sophie Ecclestone (0), Kate Cross (1) and Lauren Filer (5) as she came up with a brilliant display of spin bowling.

Deepti, who had scored 54 in the second innings to help India save the match in her debut Test against England at Bristol while also claiming 3-65 in that match, said she enjoyed all the wickets she got on Friday but the way she got Sophie Ecclestone pleased her most.

One of India’s premier white-ball cricketers with 1912 runs in 74 innings of 83 ODIs and 971 runs in 73 innings of 101 Women’s T20Is. On the bowling front, Deepti has claimed 93 wickets in ODIs at an average of 30.11 with a best effort of 6-20. In T20Is, Deepti has claimed 108 wickets at 19.51.

Deepti, who has represented Bengal and UP in domestic cricket, has played franchise and List A cricket in England, appearing for London Spirit (Women), Birmingham Pheonix (Women) in The Hundred besides Western Storm in England and Sydney Thunder in Australia. At the WPL, she is a key player of UP Warriorz

Supremely confident in bowling, Deepti was not afraid to share her knowledge with Charlie Dean of England while playing for London Spirit a few years back.

Dean, who claimed 4/68 in India’s second innings on Friday at the DY Patil Stadium, acknowledged that she had learned a lot while playing with Deepti.

The Deepti, who started as a medium pacer following in the footsteps of her brother Sumit a pacer for Uttar Pradesh, on her part said she likes to gain as much knowledge as possible and sharing it is one way to improve.

“I have learned a lot from my predecessors and I believe in sharing the knowledge that I have gained. That also helps me improve,” said Deepti who started playing cricket at the age of nine and had to fight her way into the state team by the time she was 15.

The young all-rounder has scored fifties in each of the three Tests she has played so far, making 29 not out and 54 against England in Bristol in 2021 and following it up with 66 and 3 not out against Australia at Carrara in September 2021.

In this Test against England, Deepti, whose father is a retired booking supervisor with Indian Railways, scored 67 in the first innings and 20 in the second.

But what will remain etched in her mind forever will be her maiden five-wicket haul. She had a lot of exposure to this ground having played T20 matches here during the inaugural WPL earlier this year.

“I love playing Test cricket, it is a big challenge as you have to think a lot and plan unlike in white-ball cricket,” said Deepti.

With India set to host Australia in another Test next week — back-to-back Tests for the first time, Deepti will be hoping for another good performance as neither she nor her teammates are sure when they will get another chance to play red-ball cricket.

She will have to grab the chance whenever it comes to her, something that comes naturally to the allrounder from Uttar Pradesh who has fought her way from age-group cricket into the

Deepti gained prominence when she figured in a World Record opening partnership of 320 runs with Poonam Raut against Ireland in a quadrangular ODI tournament in South Africa.

She was also part of the Indian team that lost the final to England in the ICC Women’s ODI World Cup in 2017.

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