February 21, 2010. An injured MD Thirushkamini comes to the middle with a runner in the seventh over with India reeling at 16 for 4, chasing a 184 against England at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. The left-hander had scored just two runs from nine balls when she was again injured, hit by a Katherine Brunt delivery forcing her to go back retired hurt. She was out of the Indian setup for the next three years.
Fast forward to January 31, 2013. Playing her first international match after such a long hiatus, Thirushkamini delivered in style scoring her maiden ODI ton against West Indies at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai – that too in the grandest of the stages – the Women’s World Cup.
“It was a very memorable innings for me,” the left-hander tells Women’s CricZone. “Playing for India was one thing, but that comeback was something very special because I had to go through a lot of struggle in terms of my rehab and was completely off from cricket.”
Sent in to bat on a hot afternoon in Mumbai, it was the perfect opportunity for Thirushkamini to dig her heels in and, alongside her good friend Punam Raut, take full advantage of a flat pitch. She couldn’t have asked for more on return. While Raut set the tone finding the boundaries early on, she adopted a more cautious approach, taking time to settle in.
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Quite early on, it was clear that Thirushkamini was 'in the zone'. A timely drive off an attempted yorker from fast bowler Shakera Selman in the fifth over, followed by a delicate cover-drive off Stafanie Taylor made it obvious. For West Indies, the signs were ominous... Their opponent clearly meant business - the break had left her hungry for runs.
Initially, runs came in singles, with the occasional boundary whenever the bowlers erred. Once properly settled, the left-hander used her feet to come down the track to the spinners, happy to lift length deliveries over the in-field - sometimes even going straight over their heads. One shot that stood out through the innings was a particularly powerful stroke off Anisa Mohammed that rocketed over her head and crashed into the boundary boards in the 24th over. Her fifty came up when she guided Tremayne Smartt off back-foot past fine-leg for four.
Thirushkamini was so focused on the game that after Raut completed her half-century, the hug lasted barely for a second before she returned to her crease. She was determined to cash in - the job was only half done. If anything, the endless hours spent in the physio's room had hardened her resolve. All the pain had led to this moment.
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“I really worked on my rehab because I had to go through two major surgeries on my knee,” she explains. “I worked on my fitness to get match fit, on my functional fitness to get onto the field and my batting initially as well. Since I had already played at the international circuit, I worked on my consistency rates during those three years because it’s important you are able to hit the ball in the area you want to on a consistent basis.”
The fireworks really began once Raut was dismissed for a well constructed 94-ball 72 by Shanel Daley breaking the 175-run opening partnership. Jhulan Goswami, who was promoted up the order, slammed the accelerator upon arrival, crunching two boundaries within her first four deliveries. Within no time at all, the Thirushkamini-Goswami duo hit as many as eight boundaries in the next four overs. While she took 92 balls for her first fifty, the opener's second needed a mere 53 to give India their maiden centurion in a Women's World Cup.
The moment she reached the three-figure mark, the left-hander leapt in the air, waving her bat excitedly and was soon enveloped in a warm embrace from Goswami.
“It was very important that I had a good partnership with her (Punam), because both of us were going really well. In a World Cup game, it is important to set the right tone for the tournament. So that way she really helped me because there was some time when she was able to take a particular bowler and I was counterattacking from the other end. And that helped us to post a really good total against West Indies,” adds Thirushkamini.
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She was finally run out by Deandra Dottin on exactly a hundred off 146 balls.
India put up a respectable 284 for 6 in their 50 overs with Goswami and Harmanpreet Kaur each contributing a quickfire 36 before dismissing the opposition for 179 in 44.3 overs. However, the hosts couldn’t keep up the momentum as they lost their next two group games against England (32 runs) and Sri Lanka (138 runs) to bow out of the tournament.