Asha Sobhana: A tale of patience and hope

Asha Sobhana had a stellar WPL 2024 paving the way for her international debut at the age of 33

Pranav Mathur
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Asha Sobhana

Asha Sobhana (L) and Smriti Mandhana (R) in action for RCB © BCCI/ Getty

Patience is a virtue. It is a very famous saying that has been passed on from generation to generation. But people often fail to see that with patience, it is also necessary to be disciplined, and this was proved in the recently concluded T20I between India and Bangladesh. India were able to produce the right result, but more importantly, it was also the day where someone’s patience and persistence was eventually rewarded with an India cap - Her name - Asha Sobhana Joy.

After sealing the series, India decided to give every player a chance, keeping in mind the upcoming T20 World Cup that is taking place in Bangladesh later this year. They called upon a couple of players from the bench to make their first appearance on this tour.

And hence Asha was given a debut. All debuts are special, but what made it so special was the wait that preceded it. She became the oldest player to make India debut in international cricket at the age of 33. Her Women’s Premier League (WPL) exploits were the catalyst for her to get the maiden call-up and poetically it was her Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) captain who awarded her the debut cap. 



Domestic exploits 

Asha made her debut in domestic cricket at the age of 16, and made her international debut at the age of 33. What did she do in all these years? 

She made her domestic debut for Kerala way back in 2006 and then she joined The Railways in 2011 to play for them for the next ten years. She lost her way in between and decided to move to Puducherry in 2022 and was eventually named as the captain for the Women’s Senior T20 Trophy for the side. 

In the 2023-24 Women’s Senior One Day Trophy, she came out as the leading wicket-taker for Puducherry, scalping 16 wickets in seven matches. While her performance with the ball was laudable, she was also the only player to score more than 200 runs alongside the stat of taking more than ten wickets in that tournament. 

WPL exploits

It was around 2023 when Sobhana thought to herself that she should pull away from the sport and just retire. At the age of 32, after giving everything she had to the sport she felt that it would be fine to let go, as there was nothing more left. But patience prevailed and RCB was in town for an experienced domestic leg-spinner and they picked her up at the auction ahead of the inaugural edition of the WPL. And that eventually changed her life for the better. 

While she was not young, she had loads of experience of sweating it out at the domestic level. This was also seen in her performances in the tournament, as she was always spot on with her line and lengths, making her one of the most difficult bowlers to go after. 

The second edition of the WPL was the catalyst for her India call-up. In the match against UP Warriorz, she produced a magical spell with figures of  5 for 26, becoming the first Indian player to claim a fifer in the competition. She finished the season as the second-highest wicket-taker, taking 12 wickets from ten matches.

India debut

The fourth T20I between India and Bangladesh saw two debutants, one on each side. Other than the contrast in their performance, there was also a huge contrast in their age, with Habiba Islam Pinky making her debut at the age of 14 while Asha’s gile was rewarded at the age of 33. 

“We have given a lot of caps in the last three-four years, but this one is really special as it is for a special player. In these speeches we say that ‘you will now be an inspiration to many young girls’ but you have already been an inspiration to so many young girls in domestic cricket,” Mandhana said as she handed over the cap to Asha. 

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Debut masterclass

All eyes were on the debutant from the Indian side and the day didn’t start well for Asha as she dropped a skier. But when she made her way to the crease to bowl her first over at the international level, it looked like she belonged. There were a few close calls that were turned down by the umpire, but it was a notable start for Asha as she started off by conceding just three runs in her first over. 

Asha came back to bowl the ninth over, and finally, all her efforts turned out to be fruitful as she deceived the Bangladesh captain to strike her on the pads and the umpire had no hesitation in signaling that out. She had done it, Asha procured her first-ever international wicket, and it had to be the big fish, Nigar Sultana Joty. 

In her third and final over, Asha got the wicket of Shorna Akter, who got tempted by a flighted delivery, only to mishit and provide a simple catch to Richa Ghosh. 

Asha finished the match with figures of 3-0-18-2. A debut to remember. 

Patience is a virtue

After years of battling hard, dedicating her life to the sport, Asha finally had her moment in the sun. She was supposed to quit cricket, she wasn’t going to be on the cricket field to live this moment. But Asha was there.

In the post-match interview, it was evident that everyone on the Indian side was proud of Asha, as they were all cheering for her from the sidelines as the leg-spinner gave an interview. 

“Feeling so blessed to be a part of the Indian team. In 2012, I came into the probables and since then it has been a long journey. This is everything I have been working for all these years,” Asha said. 

And it was worth the wait!