LUCKNOW: When the Indian Women’s Under-19 team created history by clinching the inaugural ICC Women’s T20 World Cup at Potchefstroom on Sunday, Uttar Pradesh had a special reason to celebrate.
Five girls in the squad – Archana Devi, Sonam Yadav, Parshavi Chopra, Falak Naz and standy player Shikha Gehlot – made Uttar Pradesh proud with their performance in the World Cup.
While Parshavi Chopra continued her dream run in the final, snapping two for 13, Archana Devi scalped 2 for 17. Sonam Yadav also claimed a wicket.
Archana Devi, who hails from Rataipur village in Unnao district, had to face many odds before finally making a mark for herself.
“We lost our father to cancer in 2007 and then our younger brother died of snakebite in 2017. We struggled to make our ends meet. Someone told my mother that Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya provides free education, accommodation and food to girls after which she got Archana enrolled in a KGBV in Ganj Moradabad,” said Archana’s brother Rohit.
“Sports teacher at KGBV, Poonam, found that Archana was interested in cricket and took her to Kapil Pandey, who runs Rovers Club in Kanpur where her training began. In the meantime, my mother used to make ‘khoya’ and sell it in the market to make a living,” he added.
“Those who are wishing us today did not drink water at our house. They taunted my mother after the death of my father and brother,” Rohit said.
Archana’s coach Kapil Pandey, who has also trained cricketer Kuldeep Yadav, was all praise for her.
“She always wanted to play like Kuldeep Ya- dav. I made an assessment of her strengths and weaknesses and honed her skills as an off-spinner,” Pan- dey said. Sonam Yadav, a gritty girl from Firozabad, too had her share of struggles. “Our financial condition is not very good.
We do not have a television set and had to arrange for it on rent to watch Sonam play in the fi- nal match. It was a big day for us. Sonam has made us proud,” said Sonam’s father Mukesh Kumar Yadav, who works as a labourer in a glass factory. A classic left-arm spin- ner, Sonam claimed the cru- cial wicket of England all- rounder Sophia Smale, help- ing India win the World Cup.
“The credit for Sonam’s success goes to her brother, Aman, and coach, Ravi Ya- dav, who kept motivating her to perform better. I had to do double duty to ensure that Sonam gets to play cricket,” Mukesh said. Sonam, youngest among six siblings, started playing cricket in 2015 by joining the District Cricket Academy, Fi- rozabad. “She is a natural player.
However, she had to face crit- icism and taunts as many of our friends and relatives thought that girls should not play cricket,” Aman told TOI.Falak Naz from Praya- graj too had to face financial difficulties in her journey but her determination kept her going. “I work as a peon in a pri- vate school and my family lives in a rented accommoda- tion in a slum on the banks of the Yamuna. Falak was fond of playing since her child- hood and took up cricket in 2012.
I did not have enough money to send her to a big a- cademy. Finally, coach Ajay Yadav agreed to train her,” Falak’s father Naseer Ahmed said. “Whenever she faced fail- ures and was rejected in trials, she would get disap- pointed. We always told her to keep trying harder. It is a big moment for me. I am hap- py that my daughter brought laurels to the country,” he said.
Her coach Ajay Yadav said that Falak was selected in the UP Under-19 team in 2018. “She worked hard to transform herself from a me- dium pacer to a fast bowler. She is very disciplined and works very hard,” he said. Shikha Gehlot from Gha- ziabad, who was a standby player in the World Cup squad, had to toil hard to make it to the team.
Her coach Rahul Chaud- hary said, “Shikha used to cover 16km daily on bicycle to reach the cricket academy. She is very hardworking and disciplined.” Her father Yogesh Kumar said, “I run a small store in my village while my wife runs a beauty parlour. I am happy that my daughter’s hard work has paid a rich di- vidend.”
Gaurav Chopra, father of Parshavi, said: “My daugh- ter liked skating but as crick- et runs in our family she fol- lowed in our footsteps. I have played club cricket. My fa- ther used to play zonal crick- et. My son is also a cricketer. I got enrolled in Yuvraj Singh Cricket Academy. She later joined Youngster Academy. She has made us all proud.”

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