CHENNAI: There was a huge noise in one of the nets at Maties Oval, Stellenbosch, where the Indian team was practicing on Tuesday. Some of the players were yelling, trying to alert Jemimah Rodrigues, who was passing from one net to another, as the ball hit the iron rod at the corner of a net just next to her before rebounding. It hit the rod so hard that everyone else looked up wondering ‘what just happened?’. A couple of inches here or there, it probably would have hit Rodrigues on the helmet. Where did the ball come from? Off Richa Ghosh’s bat.
It was a common trend throughout her batting stint. Every ball, every shot she played, she hit it like she meant it, like she wanted to take the life off the leather. It didn’t matter if it was a throwdown. Irrespective of the bowling type, she was treating everyone the same depending on the ball she faced. It would have been hard to keep count of the number of balls that almost went out of the nets she was batting. If her hitting wasn't enough, there was an internal competition going on as well, with an assumed field set for every ball. And it wasn’t just blind hitting, there were the cuts, on-one-leg pulls, sweeps, etc. She was doing everything she would do in a match.
In fact, just two days before, she had played all that she practiced and more during her unbeaten 31 off 20 balls against Pakistan in India’s opening game of the tournament. Wednesday was no different, as Richa, who came in to bat when India were in a tricky position at 45/3 while chasing 118, went to smash another unbeaten knock of 44 runs from 32 balls.
There were quite a few shots that took your breath away in both innings. Like when she stood up front to hit Shabika Gajnabi over mid-off or cut her through point so hard that West Indies skipper Hayley Matthews had no clue where the ball went. The one that stood out was the way she handled the short ball. She shuffled across and pulled Shamilia Connell with ease to take India home in 18.1 overs.
However, there was more to her knocks than just her hitting. On both occasions, despite the pressure, she never panicked. She never seemed hurried even when the required run rate went up. She knew what she was capable of and was confident of pulling it off. She was not the nervy teenager of the 2020 T20 World Cup anymore — she is still in her teens, but the maturity shows as Rodrigues said on Sunday.
What has made her this effective finisher is the way she has been to pick the balls to go after in the match, unlike the way she murdered the white leather in the nets. In fact, on Wednesday, at one point, she was 22 off 20 balls before putting her pedal on the accelerator.
“Whenever Rishi sir (Hrishikesh Kanitakar, the batting coach) and Richa are speaking, they always talk about picking the right ball,” skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, who shared a 72-run stand with Richa, said after the match. “It is something they keep working on. Earlier, you know, she used to be in a hurry because she is someone who can obviously hit the ball and I think, that is what they discuss. Because picking the right ball is key for her. It is good to see that she is understanding what her role is and which ball she could take on and which ball to take a single."
Richa was not there with the team in the final of the Commonwealth Games when they needed someone to finish off the chase. Here in South Africa, they have come with a weapon that is going to take down attacks with ease. A Richa Ghosh-sized weapon.
Brief scores: West Indies 118/6 in 20 ovs (Stafanie 42; Deepti 3/15) lost to India 119/4 in 18.1 ovs (Richa 44 n.o; Karishma 2/14). (THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)