Have you ever heard about any player selected in the team on the very first day of coaching? I am sure there are very few players were that impressive, and former player turned coach Devieka Palshikaar is definitely one of them.
After facing the spinners without any guards on the very first day of coaching in PYC Gymkhana (Pune), she took all the limelight away from the others. Her coach was so impressed, that he told her if she came there 30 minutes before; she would have been selected for the state team for under-19 matches.
Though she didn’t have to wait much; after 15 days, she got selected in the team. An aspiring Chartered Accountant who never thought of becoming a coach, Palshikaar made her debut on 2nd January 2006 against Pakistan and played almost 2 years in the national team. Her best bowling figures in ODIs are 3/12 against Pakistan in her debut match.
Shruti Banerjee had a chat with Devieka Palshikaar:
Here are some excerpts from the exclusive interview:
Tell us about your life before cricket.
I was a student of Abhinav Vidyalaya (Pune) and was very ordinary student in school days. But when I was doing commerce after joining Garware College of Commerce, I became an extraordinary student. Even my friends still wonder what happened to me in college that I became so studious. I used to get very good marks and used to come second or third in examinations.
You wanted to be a Chartered Accountant but ended up becoming a cricketer, how did cricket happen to you? At what age did you start playing cricket?
Cricket came into my life very late. I used to play gully cricket with my brother, and I was in the second year of college when I was introduced to professional cricket. Then I was already 18.
One day, when I was coming back home from my college, I saw one girl wearing a white uniform, and carrying a kit bag. She was with her mother. I followed her and asked why she was wearing that uniform. She told me that she played cricket for Maharashtra. I was utterly surprised to know that girls also play cricket in a professional way.
Being a shy and reserved person like me, it was a great deal to ask an unknown girl about this (laughs)! I took all the information and she told me to come very next day. I bunked my class the next morning and went to PYC Gymkhana; where she introduced me to the coach. He asked me whether I could play, and told me to play against the bowlers there. When they started bowling, I started hitting them all over the field.
It was the selection day for the Under-19 team. My coach was so impressed by my batting, that he told me that if I had reached 30 minutes earlier, then I would have been selected in the team too. Those things did matter a lot at that time.
Before leaving for the tournament, he told me to practice regularly and be ready with the kit as we had nationals after that. That time I had no idea about the process. I was so happy that day, I went home and told my mother that I bunked my classes and had gone to the ground. Maharashtra became the winner that year in the junior level, and we had to go for nationals in Bihar. That time they chose me, so I directly got selected in the team.
In my final year of college, I had already joined Air India. I played two years for Maharashtra, and had great seasons there. For my performances in junior and university level, I got a call from Air India immediately. In my final year, I left CA and chose cricket.
What was the role of your family while shaping your career?
My family never opposed me in anything and respected my decision. They had full faith in me. My parents didn’t have much knowledge about women’s cricket then.
When I had to choose between cricket and CA, I asked them. They just told me to never regret your decision later, and I told them that my instinct says I should opt for cricket. Since childhood, even when I was not playing professionally, I had seen myself playing for India. I don’t know how, but I used to get those dreams when I didn’t even know girls too play cricket professionally.
You made your debut against arch-rival Pakistan, became the ‘Player of the match’ on your debut for your brilliant spell (10-4-12-3). What was your feeling after that?
First of all, getting the chance to represent your country itself is a great achievement. Performing continuously and keeping the form intact was difficult then.
I was basically a middle-order batter, but I was selected in the team for my bowling. That year I was the highest wicket-taker in the domestic circuit. That time, the top order was packed with batters and I used to go at number 7 or 8. So, it was only bowling which I used to do. I was lucky so, I got those wickets.
Still, if you ask me, I would say I was a good batter than a bowler. But I have hardly batted for India. I was not a good bowler but they used to give me the balls (giggles).
You have played under Mithali Raj’s captaincy and you were the assistant coach during the 2014 T20 World Cup, where again she was leading the team. Did the bond change when you used to play under her captaincy and when you were the coach?
The bond was same. Off the field, we are always good friends. She was with Railways and I used to play for Air India, so, there was a rivalry on the field in domestic level but that didn’t affect our relation off the field.
I still remember, before I became the assistant coach, we had a camp in NCA after 2013 World Cup and I was the batting coach there. I watched Mithu’s (Mithali Raj) batting videos and told her to adjust some of the things. She took those very sportingly.
Though initially, I was a bit hesitant, she took it in a right way. So, that didn’t matter whether I played under her captaincy and now I am the coach.
When you toured Australia in 2006 for the only test match which you have played, you and your teammates used to cook there, any funny memories of that time?
Oh! You know that too? (As she laughs). Yes, we had shared the apartment. Mithu (Mithali Raj) didn’t know how to cook; even she doesn’t know it now also, while I used to cook from my childhood days. I don’t eat non-veg but I can cook very well both veg and non-veg dishes.
There were 5-6 girls in our team. Mithu (Mithali Raj) and the other girl used to clean the vessels, Amy (Amita Sharma) and I had the responsibility of cooking and the other girls used to get the vegetables from outside.
That time there was not much money in women’s cricket. So, we used to save money as much as possible whenever we can. Even we didn’t get any Indian dishes there, they used to serve us their food and we were not used to it. So, we used to come back to the room quickly and start preparing the foods. Kyun ki hume toh apni roti-sabji chahiye! (Because we want our bread-vegetables) (giggles while talking about that). Those memories I will cherish my whole life.
You have played 15 ODIs and 1 Test. Now it’s an era of T20 format also. Which format do you enjoy the most & Why?
Unfortunately, I missed T20. I would have loved to play in the T20 as a player, as my batting style was similar to the format and I loved to hit sixes a lot. I have played two years (2010-11) in this format in domestic cricket from Assam. There I made the fastest 50 in 19 balls and ended up scoring 87; which was my highest score in T20 format.
Surprisingly we won that match. That was the first time Assam beat Mumbai in the history of women’s cricket. It was my last season and I enjoyed playing T20. I wish I could play more in that format.
But as a coach, now I personally enjoy test match more. Because it’s like a challenge as well as there are certain responsibilities on the coach too which I enjoy.
Tell us about your injury which didn’t allow you to take the field anymore.
We were practising at the MRF Academy just before the Australia test series. I don’t remember exactly what happened but during one fielding session I got injured in my back and it was like a slipped disc.
It troubled me for almost 10 years as it was not fully cured. Because of this, my game was hampered a lot. That time the fielding standard started becoming better and I was struggling to cope up with it. Then it became difficult for me to continue and I backed out at that time.
What did you give up to pursue cricket? Are there any regrets you have?
Nothing as such; except my college days with friends and family time. No regrets at all.
How did coaching happen to you? From where did it all start? How’s the journey so far?
During my playing days, I never thought of becoming a coach. I was very introvert and reserved person who didn’t like to talk much. During 2008, I missed the Challengers Trophy and then the World Cup too. But after missing the World Cup; I was so sad as it was my dream to play in the World Cup and was about to quit then, but NCA conducted a level-1 coaching camp in Pune and someone suggested that I should attend that for personal knowledge. Then I was not a part of the Indian team, so I thought of attending the course for my personal knowledge and improvement in my game. There I did quite well and stood 1st in the exam.
After that, I was given a small assignment in Assam for 1 month. I was not too keen to do it as I had that thought in my mind that no one could become a coach after having passed one coaching course. It was Shubhangi Kulkarni; who convinced me to take up that assignment. So, I went there for the practice session. It all started from there. They liked my “so-called” coaching there.
Moreover, that time I was not too happy with the Maharashtra Cricket Association. That time association used to give players’ names to the selectors for the national team. I was the second highest run-getter after Mithali but they didn’t support me at that time. That time Assam Cricket association asked me whether I could play for them. Though I never thought that before but gradually everything started falling in place with responsibility.
I had the responsibility for both Junior and Senior teams. The very first year, we became the runners’ up in under-19. That was a big achievement for them as well as for me also as a coach. I continued there for 3 years as a player and we beat Bengal for 2 years in T20 format. In one year, we became the champion of East Zone too. In my last year of coaching, the junior team became the champion in under-19.
I am that kind of person who doesn’t prefer to stay long at a place. Luckily, till date, whichever teams I have got for coaching, they fully supported me and I left the coaching after being the champion.
As a coach, how do you get the best out of the girls?
One simple Philosophy I follow is that if I understand the player well, it will be very easy for me to take out the best from them. I never got that coach in my life who could understand me or asked me, what I want. What I didn’t get from my coaches, or rather what didn’t happen to me, I used to give those to my players.
I used to remind them of their good performances too, because if I will not there tomorrow, they can do it on their own, as I think players shouldn’t always be dependent on their coaches. I always tell them not to follow any coaches blindly and ask why before doing anything.
That’s why I always make sure they ask me their questions while I am telling them something to do. In this way, they become more independent and they will get to know what to do in which situation.
How would you recommend improving the quality of female players on the domestic circuit?
By giving them more matches; which will give them more exposure. When they will get more matches to play then automatically quality will improve in overall.
Bangladesh played really well in the recently concluded Asia Cup and beat the defending champion twice. Were there any special strategies made for the batters like Smriti Mandhana, Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur?
Frankly speaking, not at all. We just played to our strength. Basically, the T20 format is a fast type of game and it’s not possible to make strategies for everyone.
Anju di (Anju Jain) gave me full freedom after being the assistant coach, as I joined one series before her. We lost badly in the first game against Sri Lanka. After the first match, we changed our combination and made sure the players understand their roles clearly. Then they played to their strengths and followed the instructions.
Though we knew the weaknesses and strengths of others, but we told them to play accordingly their strength. We made a specific plan for the whole team and our main focus was to give more dot balls and put pressure. Spinners were our strengths and we introduced spinners from both the ends to restrict them to a small total. That plan worked for us.
How will these performances help them to do well in the next series? What changes do you see in the team?
Definitely, this win will boost up their confidence level. Financially it will help them too. When you become stable financially that helps you to focus more on your game too. I am sure, they will be keen to repeat their performances again.
We could see the improvement in the team. We are so specific about our plans. It’s like they are blank slates and you can write on them anything and they will take it wholly. Which is great in itself as you give someone to a specific role and they will do that only.
We couldn’t perform well in South Africa. But in Asia Cup, after the first match, they were keen to learn something from every match. They were taking our inputs and put those in their game. So, I too look forward to the next series and curious to know how they will perform.
Can you shed some light on the bond between the Bangladesh team and the coaching staff?
Very good. It feels like my Assam days. There, most of them come from a poor background and still, they have that culture to think that the teacher is everything. It’s like whatever we tell them, they follow it blindly.
I have seen many championships in domestic level too; players do come and say thanks, but here, they owed their winning to us. Said that no one ever tried to understand them, never tried to take out their talents and performances before and didn’t give the confidence too. We have won the trophy which is totally different, but they made us feel so special by saying those words.
Recently a Women’s IPL exhibition match occurred in Mumbai. Do you think the idea of this type of games is feasible, or should the board focus more on scheduling international matches?
Both. If the players get more international matches, the player’s performance will enhance. With this, if IPL type matches will introduce in small scale that will help them too. When you play with other countries’ players, that helps in your mental as well as overall growth.
Tell us about the bond between you and Shikha Pandey?
We share a great bond. She has full faith in me and likes my coaching style. It helps her too. Sometimes it is needed to monitor the thing which you are working on. Whenever I used to get time, we used to have a one to one session. That was helping her a lot.
What is the most memorable moment of your life?
It was my debut match in under-19 against Bengal. Then Maharashtra was a top team in the domestic circuit and Bengal used to be at the bottom. That day we lost the toss, and Bengal scored 152 in 40 overs. Because of Jhulan Goswami and Rumeli Dhar’s bowling, Maharashtra managed to score only 17 runs in 10 overs with the loss of 5 wickets.
After that, I went to bat and was there till the last ball, after scoring an unbeaten 89. In last over we needed 2 runs, and I was at the non-striker end. Jhulan came for the last over and all the six balls went to keeper’s hand. My partner couldn’t hit a single ball. Maharashtra lost to Bengal for the first time. (she laughs, remembering the way they were defeated). Though they won the game but I was adjudged the ‘Player of the Match’.
Tell us about the Tamil film on women’s cricket you were supposed to be associated with.
The person is still in touch with me. I was supposed to go to Chennai and work with them for 3-4 months. but it’s not possible for me now to go there physically. So, I have given my inputs to the clippings which they send to me.
What would your advice be to youngsters, who want to pursue cricket?
Be honest with yourself and work hard because only hard work can take you to the success.
How’s Devieka Palshikaar off the field?
I am very quiet and reserved person. I prefer sitting quietly and like to observe things and people.
So, did you learn Bengali?
Yeah! Thanks to Jhulan (Jhulan Goswami), I do know little Bengali. I can’t talk but I can understand it.
What are your goals for the next few years?
I don’t have any long-term goals. I prefer taking one day at a time and try to make that best.
Favourite Food: Pav Bhaji
Favourite Book: Any book which has small stories with big fonts (As she giggles)
Your inspiration? My mother
Favourite Player (Both male and female): Though I like Virendra Sehwag’s batting but no favourite in that way, I respect each and every player in any game who fights against all the odds and reaches their destination (male or female both).
Favourite actor: Aamir Khan
In the team who you usually talked to when you used to play: Anju di (Anju Jain).
Favourite singer: Shreya Ghoshal, Asha Bhosle, Kishor Kumar
Favourite pastime: Listening to music and driving.
Describe yourself in one word: Good listener
Which cricketer comes to your mind hearing these words?
Aggressive: Virat Kohli, Harmanpreet Kaur
Cool: MS Dhoni
Introvert: Mithali Raj
Foodie: Amita Sharma