Cricket

Drive for excellence

Focus on future: Manju Godara at the Ferozshah Kotla stadium in Delhi

Focus on future: Manju Godara at the Ferozshah Kotla stadium in Delhi   | Photo Credit: VIVEK TRIPATHI

As Manju Godara prepares to leave for London to play two matches for Twickenham, the fast bowler promises to make an impact on the national scene

For Manju Godara, an aspiring fast bowler, the journey from Hanumangarh in Rajasthan, to the Twickenham Cricket Club in London, has been an education in life and the game. Striving to make a mark, she found her way to the Academy conducted by former Test opener Chetan Chauhan in Delhi’s Saket and secured a place in the Delhi team in no time.

She was the first woman cricketer to be enrolled at Chauhan’s academy. “I saw a spark in her. Her batting was aggressive and she bowled quick for her age. I am sure she will go a long way. She can be an icon for women’s cricket. I am glad she has got a contract from a club in Middlesex County,” said Chauhan.

If not for fast bowling, she may have been helping her father and brothers in cotton farming back home. But she had set her eyes on becoming a cricket professional from the time she saw Deepak Chahar making it big.

It was Manju’s fortune that she was spotted by Navendu Tyagi, a coach with the Rajasthan Cricket Association. “She was raw but very energetic. She had an explosive power to bowl and hit the ball. I knew I had stumbled upon a superb talent,” recalled Tyagi, who is now based in Delhi.

In Hanumangarh, revealed Manju, “Girls are hardly encouraged to play. I was lucky. My father (Atmaram Godara) not only allowed me to play but also supported my desire to study. Many of my friends were married off but I was permitted to pursue my graduation. I would wake up at 4 and go through a fitness drill for three hours followed by a three hour cricket training with Tyagi Sir. My family supported me all the way.”

Her home in Fatehgarh is 15 km away from the cricket training centre in Hanumangarh. “There were no good facilities to commute. So I learnt to drive a bike (Royal Enfield),” says Manju. When she shifted to Delhi, she drove her bike all the way from Fatehgarh. “After cricket, I love driving,” she adds.

Playing with boys

At Twickenham Club, she found a place in the boys’ team. “Back home I used to play with the boys only. There were hardly any women cricketers in Hanumangarh. My teacher at school wanted me to try my hand at shooting but cricket was my only interest,” remembered Manju. She gave her first trials at Jaipur in 2012 and got into the state senior team. When the RCA was banned by the BCCI, Manju was brought to Delhi by Tyagi.

“She is very hard working. A fitness freak, I have seen her improve quickly,” says Tyagi, coach at the Sudeva Sports Academy in Delhi. An Arts student at the Vyapaar Mandal Women’s College, Manju was elected president of the students union too. “My friends forced me but my interest is in sports,” she smiles.

Recently, she played the role of a coach in a Tamil movie Kanaa, based on the life of Smriti Mandhana. As she prepares to leave for London to play two matches for Twickenham, Manju promises to make an impact on the national scene. Heads at the Ferozeshah Kotla turn as she kickstarts the bike and joins the teeming traffic on way back to her academy.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 7:06:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/drive-for-excellence/article24966681.ece

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