ICC Women's World Cup: Shikha Pandey, the girl who emerged from Goa and rattled world cricket
The undying passion for serving your nation makes ordinary people do extraordinary things in life. There is no better way to explain this phrase other than revisiting the journey of India’s bowling sensation, Shikha Pandey.
Coming from a laid back state of Goa, a place familiar with white sand beaches and turquoise water; the widespread muddy football fields never really delighted her. The young girl’s heart was pinned on a slightly different field albeit the same colour. Nothing could give her more happiness than the smell of a brand new cricket ball and the 22 yards.
And just like the famous saying that goes around, the only difference among the impossible and possible lies in a person’s determination. This young kid had grit and determination as she scripted an incredible journey from an intellectual student, to an electrical engineer, an Air Force officer and finally India’s pace bowler. The journey that is truly an inspiration to millions to people all around the world.
The early days
After consistently recording 90 percent of marks in her academics, cricket was always going to be a difficult option for the Pandey household. However, it was her father's love for the sport combined with her passion for emulating the heroes of the game that led her into the game.
Like most of the players, it was the never ending hours of street cricket with the neighbouring boys that worked wonders for Shikha, and she slowly graduated from local cricket to professional cricket. And, at the tender age 17, she was drafted into the squad for the Senior Women’s team of Goa to compete in the BCCI domestic matches.
Just as her cricket career was settling down, it was all about managing time for this multi-talented prodigy as she juggled among her training sessions and the practicals at the Goa College of Engineering. The right arm medium pacer was studying in the second year of her Bachelor's degree in Electronics and Electric Engineering at the city college with a sole mission of getting into the Air Force.
Opportunity with the Indian Air Force
Her consistent exploits at the domestic level started making noises for all the right reasons, and she was soon drafted into the Board President's squad for matches against England in the year 2010. After successfully completing her engineering course, she rejected the luxury of working at plenty of Multi-National Companies and took a year off to follow her dream of donning the national colours.
But alas, destiny it seemed had other ideas as she failed to break into the squad of the Indian team for their tour to England. Despite her all-round performance in the lead up to the competition, she was overlooked for the tour.
A golden opportunity to be a part of the national squad was missed, and the world came crashing down around her. It was time for her father to step in and support her.
He not only helped her through this tough phase but also encouraged her to appear for the Entrance exam of the Air Force. And her ability ensured that she cleared the exam with flying colours and joined the Air Force for their training regime and after 12 months of rigorous sessions, she returned home as Air Traffic Control Officer for the fighter jets.
Debut for the nation
Despite her credentials with the Air Force, there was one burning desire for Shikha that did not let her live peacefully: the elusive national cap. With enough support from her office, she started her training for the upcoming season and single-handedly carried the burden of her state side.
The 2013 season proved to be a massive turning point for her as the talent was finally noticed and she was drafted into the squad for the tour of Bangladesh and the ICC World T-20 held in 2014.
The famous Test victory on English soil
The performances started speaking volumes of the talent emerging from Goa and she slowly yet steadily settled into the Indian team. However, it wasn’t all that rosy as she was dropped from the Indian squad for the tour to England which included the one-off Test match at Wormsley. But with the destiny by her side, she soon jumped onto the flight as a replacement for one of the regular players.
The Test match marked her coming of age as she scored a well made 28 runs in the second innings and along with Mithali Raj, guided the Indian team to a famous win on foreign soil. Wormsley witnessed a dramatic turn of events as Shikha, after failing to make into the initial squad, ended up scoring the winning runs for the side.
A stern test awaits
The 28-year-old is featuring in the ongoing World Cup after enduring a dream run on the international circuit. She shouldered the bulk of the responsibility in the Qualifiers of the tournament after spearhead Jhulan Goswami was ruled out due to an injury.
With her name already etched in the history books of Indian cricket as the first player to represent the nation from Goa, Pandey will look to relive the memories of this beautiful land and replicate the heroics of the memorable Test match victory in this mega event.