Jaipur,January,29,2011. Fielding at cover during a National Womens T20 match against Bengal,Soniya Dabir was about to experience one of fates painful twists. Five days earlier,the Maharashtra off spinner had bowled an important spell in a Twenty20 international against West Indies,taking two for 10 in three overs to help India achieve a 15-run victory. Four ODIs and four T20s into her international career,Dabirs fortunes were on the rise.
But now,while attempting to field a ball hit in her direction,her studs caught in the turf,causing her knee to buckle. Dabir didnt bowl,but batted with a runner and scored 20 off 18 balls as Maharashtra lost a close match by seven runs. Scans on her knee revealed ligament damage.
I had to operated it,and it took me around six to eight months to recover, Dabir recalls. I did my rehabilitation at the NCA (National Cricket Academy,Bangalore),and I pretty much had to start from scratch. I was literally like a small kid learning to walk.
But the Puneite was back to full fitness very quickly. When Dabir returned to competitive cricket in November,during the National Womens One-Day tournament,it was as if she had never been away. In all,she took 13 wickets in the tournament at an average of 15.23,including a five-wicket haul against Uttar Pradesh. In the four inter-zonal one-dayers that followed,Dabir scalped eight wickets at 12.12,and followed that up with 13 wickets at 10.92,at an economy rate of 4.68 in the National Womens Twenty20 tournament.
The performance was enough to win Dabir a BCCI award,announced last week,for being Maharashtras outstanding performer in the 2011-12 season. But despite this,she hasnt won a recall to the Indian team,which is at present preparing for the World T20 in Sri Lanka.
I played the entire domestic season,and did pretty well,including that five-wicket haul against UP. But maybe I could have been a little more consistent, says Dabir. I am working hard,and waiting for the opportunity,whenever it comes.
Dabir will next get to stake a claim during the 2012-13 domestic season,which starts in November. Till then,Dabir will be hard at work,training every morning at the PYC nets and coming back every evening for an hour-long fitness session. I train with PYCs under-19 and under-16 boys teams,and sometimes with the seniors as well, she says. Playing with the boys,you learn to adjust to the pace of their game,and automatically your footwork improves,and you watch the ball more carefully.
Training with the boys and playing occasional matches with them has also helped Dabir develop her bowling. They naturally have more strength,and look to go after me a lot more,and go over the top very often. Its quite enjoyable,I think. I get hit around a lot more,but I get a lot of opportunities to get them out in the process.
And this education isnt just a one-way process. I have learnt a lot from playing with them. Most importantly,for me,is watching how much they enjoy the game,how they set each other challenges in the nets,and are constantly teasing each other and playing pranks, Dabir says. And they keep asking me for advice too,on how to bowl to left-handers,for example,or just asking me if they are hitting the right areas.
Dabir might not be part of the World T20 squad,but she will closely follow her teammates progress. Two years ago,she was part of Indias World T20 squad that went to the West Indies and reached the semifinals,but didnt play any of the matches. But she remembers the event fondly,especially the novelty of playing the tournament concurrently with the mens version,on the same matchdays and at the same venues.
It was definitely a big boost for us to play where the boys were playing. We had big crowds supporting us,
Dabir says. The mens team went out before us (Super Eights stage),so they were all right behind us,telling us that we should win now.
And support from the mens team had started well before the teams left for the West Indies.
Before the tournament,we were training at BKC (Bandra-Kurla Complex),and Sachin Tendulkar came there to give us all a pep talk, Dabir says. He kept it very simple,and told us that we shouldnt treat it any differently simply because its T20. He said,if you take six singles every over,you already have 120,and then you just capitalise on the bad balls and you have a very good total. He himself proved that in that IPL season,where I think he only hit one six. Sachin also brought Zaheer Khan and Kieron Pollard with him to talk to us,and it was fantastic.