Trying to keep safe at home, then 22-year-old Roy worried about losing any momentum she had gained through the season. Cricket was, rightly, no longer the first thing on anyone’s mind, but having experienced her first big breakthrough, the right-hander saw the need to reset her goals. With her final Under-23 season slipping from her grasp, Roy chose to use that innings of 132 as a personal benchmark – a starting point from where she would have to kick off.
“Throughout the pandemic I was very disturbed that we weren’t having any matches,” Roy told Women’s CricZone. “But I realised quickly that you can’t do anything about it. So, I focused on my fitness and on my mental skills a lot.”
“I used the memory of my last game – the 132 not out – to push myself. Like, jahan se mein chodi hoon, meri gaadi wahan se hi aage badhni chahiye. Aisa na ho ki phir se neeche se start karun. . My aim was to keep improving, and I used my time during the pandemic to make sure I did that.”
Unable to venture out too often, Roy stuck to a strict diet and attempted to maintain a fitness and practice routine as best she could. The hanging ball, ‘keeping drills against a wall and shadow batting were her go-to's. She kept herself engaged in the game as much as she could, readying herself for an opportunity that she believed would come her way. The sense of discipline and dedication to her craft, she said, comes from her mother.
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“My mom is my inspiration,” Roy, who started playing as a 14-year-old, said. “She is a housewife and also a government servant – she carries most of the financial weight of the family.”
“I’ve seen her working incredibly hard since I was a child, sacrificing so much so she can support my sister and me. So, when I took up cricket, I told myself that I would show the same dedication to my work as my mother shows to hers. She has taught me the value of discipline and dedication.”
That dedication paid dividends when the Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA) organised a series of matches and camps in preparation for the truncated 2020-21 season. The Seema Desai T20 tournament was followed by the Jharkhand Women’s T20 Premier League (JPL) – a five team tournament that was live-streamed – before the senior state side headed off to Surat for the one-day games.
After a disappointing run in the first tournament, Roy blasted the competition in the JPL; her 485 runs at a strike rate of 127 led Bokaro Blossoms to the title. It proved to be a brilliant way to warm up for what would be her best List-A season yet.
“The JPL was a huge help for my confidence. I was hitting the ball well in the Seema Desai tournament, but I wasn’t able to score too many runs,” Roy said.
“Through the JPL I just tried to bat more responsibly and be the backbone of my team. The fact that I was able to do that and be consistent through the tournament really helped me going into the BCCI matches. I knew what I could do and that I needed to bat more responsibly for Jharkhand as well. I was very determined to utilise the chances coming my way.”
On the back of Roy’s top-of-the-charts performance in the 2021-22 Senior One-Day Tournament, Jharkhand cruised into their maiden final, toppling the likes of Karnataka and Andhra on their way. The right-hander smashed 456 runs in eight matches at an average of 76, including two unbeaten tons, and a strike rate just under 87.
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Roy’s fearless shot-making, crisp footwork and command at the crease caught the eye. She showcased a keen understanding of the game, adjusting her methods to suit the situation. Her natural aggressive style meant she often got Jharkhand off to a rollicking start, but, on occasion, also showed the ability to hold fort.
Her two best performances of the year came in chases – the first 130 not out in pursuit of 230 against Gujarat, and the second a rapid 103* off just 95 deliveries against Chhattisgarh when Jharkhand were chasing qualification.
“That knock was my best of the tournament,” Roy said of her innings against Chhattisgarh. “We needed to chase down the target (175) in 32 overs to qualify for the knockouts. That message was sent out to the batters very late – somewhere in the 26th-27th over. We needed a little over a run-a-ball at the time.”
“I just went for my shots and it came off. I’m so happy we chased it down in 31 (31.2) overs, and I also got my century. I think that was my best effort.”
Unsurprisingly, when it comes to hunting down targets, Roy looks to former India skipper MS Dhoni for inspiration.
“I am a huge fan of Mahi sir,” she laughed. “We all know he is a great finisher. I want to become like him.”
“I keep watching his videos and try to learn as much as I can. His focus is always on the win and the team requirements. That’s how I want to be.”
Much like the former India men’s skipper, Roy too has a real intensity about her when she walks in to bat. Nothing ever appears to faze her. She is hungry for runs; her eyes locked on the prize. She is a woman on a mission who will take nothing less than a win. Personal glory doesn't matter.
“My coach, Seema di (Singh) always tells me that if you are playing, you should make sure you help your team win the game. That is the most important thing. Your performances don’t count if you don’t see the team through. You should not be happy at all. Agar aap match jitaake aate ho, that makes a big difference.
“That has become part of my system now – may aim is always to win games for my team, whether I am batting or ‘keeping. I need to put the team in a winning situation. If we are batting first, I need to help my team reach a score that scares the opposition, and if we are chasing, as an opener, I need to set the right tempo. And if I get set, it is my responsibility to see the game through.”
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It is that clarity of thought that has allowed Roy to develop her skills quickly. After every game she assess what she can do to improve her team’s position and works on it. As an opener, she is aware of the different situations she could come across in a match. The more she has played, the quicker she has learnt.
“When you focus on the win, you understand what the need of each situation is, because you are aware of the target in front of you. You learn to be calculative and how to plan an innings. That’s how I developed my
“Now, when I am playing in a match, I try and quickly assess what my team needs me to do and each situation and try to bat accordingly.”
Following a successful domestic season, Roy has been rewarded with a call-up to India’s 21-member squad for their tour to England next month. She says that while it took her by surprise, she hopes to continue to improve and make the most of the opportunities that present themselves.
“I honestly didn’t expect it,” she laughed. “After my performance in the Senior One Day Tournament I hoped I would get to play in the IPL (Women’s T20 Challenge), but when those matches got cancelled, I thought nothing would be on the radar for now.”
“I am extremely happy, of course. I’ve worked very hard for this over many years, so I hope to make full use of the opportunity that comes my way. I hope to continue performing well and serve India successfully.”
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Despite the runs under her belt, 23-year-old is very aware that the strength of India’s top order means she will likely have to play a different role with the bat if she does get a game.
“Yes, it (the batting unit) is very strong, but I think my batting is such that I can adjust anywhere. One of the main reasons for that is that I know how to rotate the strike, and that is key at any position. When you can manipulate the field and find the single, it allows you to settle down quickly. So, no matter where I get a chance, I believe that I can adjust.”
“I know I will have to keep working on it, but I am confident the basics are there.”
If Roy’s relaxed manner and supreme self-belief are anything to go by, when she does make her international debut, the nerves will be minimal. However, she insists that she is not looking too far ahead, and her focus for now is to learn as much as she can from the senior players in the squad and keep improving.
“It will be a dream come true to play alongside Mithali di, Jhulu di, Harry di, and all the other senior players.”
“Not everyone gets the opportunity to play for their country. It’s years of struggle that get you there. But this is only the beginning. It’s one thing to get into the team, but another entirely to perform and stay there. Whenever I get a chance I will do my best and try and win matches for the team.”
“I want to perform well and play for India for 10-15 years. That is the new dream.”
The goal posts have shifted. Gaadi aage nikal gayi hai. Indrani Roy has her eyes on a new prize.
With inputs from Gomesh S.