On this day in 2017, Punam Raut and Deepti Sharma walked out in the middle to open the innings for India against minnows Ireland in a bid to prepare for the upcoming World Cup. In Smriti Mandhana’s absence, a young Deepti was asked to open the innings alongside veteran Raut. India were expected to dominate, but not in the way they did. A few hours later, the history books would need revising as they ended up breaking the record for the highest opening partnership in the history of white-ball cricket, both men’s and women’s.
The opening duo were off to a good start and were enjoying themselves, pouncing on every opportunity to hit the ball to the fence. It was not until the 43rd over of the innings, when the score went past 280, that the opening pair realised that they were onto something big at Potchefstroom.
“When we approached 280-90, we realised that we were going to break some record,” Raut recalled that she vaguely remembered the Sri Lankan opening partnership (286) being the highest till then.
It was not until after the innings when they realised that they had made history when the phones started buzzing. “I had a vague idea but it was after the match when we saw our phones that we realised that something big had happened. My WhatsApp was full of messages. There were calls for interviews from all over the world,” recalled Raut, as if the partnership happened yesterday.
The 320-run partnership was not a smooth ride all along, with their energy levels beginning to drop towards the end. However, the flurry of boundaries did give them a breather for the two.
“We were just trying to lay a foundation and focusing on our process. We did get tired but we were not running too many singles or doubles.
At one point I didn’t get the strike for almost five overs and she (Deepti) was hitting boundary after boundary towards the leg side. That’s why there was so much gap in our (individual) scores at the end,” the 30-year-old veteran batter said.
Not just the partnership record, Deepti also ended up breaking the boundary record in her splendid knock of 188. She hit 27 boundaries and two sixes in the innings. She broke the record till then held by New Zealand’s Rachel Priest, who had hit 23 boundaries in an innings in 2015 against Sri Lanka.
Raut fondly remembers her contribution of 109 in the partnership, in which she said both “just enjoyed their time in the middle”. She also recalls how tired she was while fielding, waiting for Ireland’s innings to end.
During the lockdown, the Mumbai batter shared a photo on Twitter with Deepti, remembering the day they had scaled one of cricket’s all-time records.
What a phenomenal day it was ! #15thmay2017💝 I will be remain grateful for this incredible partnership with @officialdeeptisharma for rest of my life.. thank you #icc and @officialdeeptisharma pic.twitter.com/pZx8ijbKC3
— Punam Raut (@raut_punam) May 15, 2020
The opener also talked about how she’s been keeping fit during the lockdown.
“Well, I have been following the workout regime sent by my trainers. But fitness levels have gone down a bit during the lockdown,” she said.
With Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana opening the innings, Raut is likely to be pushed to No.3 in the ODI format.
“I have been playing as a No.3 player and have done well in the previous series. I did well on the tours of West Indies and South Africa last year,” said Raut, who scored 307 runs in eight innings at an average of 38.37, including three half-centuries.
— Deepti Sharma (@Deepti_Sharma06) May 15, 2020
Raut has not played a T20I in six years. On being asked whether the selectors have moved on from her, she said that she is not concerned about her selection.
“As far as T20I comeback is concerned, it’s not like my game is not suited for the format. I have played well in the format with a good strike rate but it’s what the team management requires at that certain point. I respect their decision. They were backing hard-hitting batters like Shafali, Richa and others. I will continue to give my best in domestic T20s,” she concluded.