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In the zone – North

For Babita Negi, kid brother Pawan Negi has always been a star

Few years back, in pursuit of getting an Engineering degree, cricketer Pawan Negi’s sister Babita Negi had got placed in Vidyapeet College in Pune. However, she did not want to leave her hometown Delhi, so she decided to stay back and enrolled herself in the local Gargi College. At the time, Babita’s younger brother Pawan was doing well for Delhi in the junior circuit. Seeing him to do well, Babita too took to cricket and trained to become a left-arm spinner. Pawan would go to Gargi College for training too and often helped his sister with her bowling. There was no looking back for Babita thereafter. She played for Delhi, North Zone, Delhi University and even managed to bag a berth in the India senior women’s camp in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

Today, Babita is an employee with the Northern Railways, and trains at National Stadium as well as Gargi College ground. The 25-year-old credits the start to her cricket career to Pawan. She said, “Pawan started to indulge in the game at an early age. I was more into badminton when it came to sports. It did not ever occur to me that I could start to train to become a cricketer like Pawan. I was more inclined towards studies. When I joined Gargi College, Pawan really backed me. I can say I got interested in the sport due to him.” Babita and Pawan, whose roots are in Almora in Uttarakhand, were born and brought up in Delhi. Babita is very proud of her kid brother’s achievements and feels he has always been a star. “February has been a lucky for the family. It has been a double whammy for us. First, Titu’s (Pawan’s nickname) selection in the India team and then his inclusion in the Delhi Daredevils team for the upcoming edition of the Indian Premiere League (IPL). We are very proud of him and wish him success.” People have been pouring in with their wishes, said Babita, who was trained by coach Surjeet Verma in the initial years. Babita’s favourite cricketers are MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina.

For this brother-sister duo, their parents are a pillar of strength and great motivators. Their father, GS Negi works with the University Grant Commission in Delhi and mother Kamla Negi is a housewife. “We have had a very liberal environment at home. We were always allowed to chase our passions and dreams. Earlier, I wanted to be an engineer, so was encouraged (to pursue it) and when I wanted to quit that and pursue B.SC along with cricket, I was motivated to do that. Had I not been pushed to take up cricket by Pawan, maybe I would have not been into any sport and would be working for any MNC. God has been kind and cricket has changed our lives for the better,” said Babita, who has also played under Anjum Chopra for Delhi.

On a lot many occasions, Babita and Pawan practice together either at the National Stadium or at Gargi College and enjoy the friendly banter.

“My friends from the cricket circle are too thrilled to see Pawan doing well in his career. They have seen him work hard. It would be great to see him perform well for India in the Asia Cup and World T20 followed by the IPL for Delhi Daredevils,” Babita said. Pawan used to play for Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings before returning to DD.

Punjab’s Harmanpreet, HP’s Sushma seal berths on Women’s ICC World T20 

The Indian women’s cricket team rose to glory recently when they clinched their first series win outside India by beating Australia 3-2 in the three-match T20 series Down Under. Punjab’s Harmanpreet Kaur Bhullar and Himachal Pradesh’s Sushma Verma did well for the team and secured berths in the Women’s ICC World T20 to be played in India in March.

Harmanpreet, 26, hails from Moga in Punjab while Sushma, 23, is from Shimla in HP. While Harmanpreet brings in experience as well as skills in batting and bowling departments, Sushma, a wicketkeeper-batsman has a sharp eye behind the stumps. Both are employees of Indian Railways and represent Railways in the India’s domestic competitions.

Like Harmanpreet is a role model for budding cricketers in Punjab, Sushma also enjoys an iconic figure for the aspiring women cricketers of the hills.

Harmanpreet, a right-hand batsman, has already played two World Cups and four World T20s. She made her ODI debut in 2009 and Test debut in 2014. Sushma, who will be keeping the wickets for India, proved herself in the role during the T20 home series against New Zealand last year. Sushma is the first woman cricketer from HP to have made it to the Indian team. At present, both are part of the ODI series in Australia.

Harmanpreet learnt early lessons of the sport at Moga under coach Yadwinder Singh Sodhi. Sushma, played various games such as Hockey, Handball and Volleyball besides trying athletics before sticking to cricket. Both the North Zone cricketers would also slug out against Sri Lanka in the three-match ODI series to be played at Ranchi from February 15-19. The Indian women’s team would look to beat Sri Lanka in the ODI series to gain confidence ahead of the World T20. 

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In the zone – South

Sanju Samson, Sachin Baby geared up

Sanju Samson and Sachin Baby had contrasting domestic seasons. Sanju, undoubtedly the star in Kerala batting line-up, went through a modest season, while Sachin had a better outing – with more than 400 runs in Ranji Trophy and being the highest run-getter in the Vijay Hazare Trophy for the state. He also got selected for the India ‘B’ team that played in the Deodhar Trophy.

In the IPL auctions though, Sanju’s reputation as a fine batsman-wicketkeeper came to his rescue as Delhi Daredevils roped him for more than 4 crore. Sachin, Sanju’s team-mate in the now-suspended Rajasthan Royals, too went for a healthy sum of Rs 10 lakh, his base price, to the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Now, the duo look forward to performing for their respective franchises. “I never expected to go for this price. My aim now is to do well and help the team score some victories in the upcoming IPL,” said Sanju. The Delhi Daredevils will need the hard-hitting 21-year-old right-hander at his very best to overturn the disappointments of the past few seasons, where they failed to finish even in the top four.

Sachin, who had to sit on the IPL sidelines last season after remaining unsold, has pushed behind that disappointment and is all set to be part of the star-studded Royal Challengers Bangalore line-up. The current Kerala one-day and T20 captain will have Shane Watson, Stuart Binny and Samuel Badree, his former team-mates at RR, for company in his new team as well.

“It has been a satisfying (domestic) season for me. I did pretty well in all three formats, and now I hope to get some outings for the RCB and make contributions in their wins. It will be exciting to be a part of the dressing room that has the likes of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle and Watson. Hopefully, I too can make a mark there,” he said.

The other Ashwin – leg-spinner from TN

Had M Ashwin followed his father’s footsteps, he would have been a part of the Tamil film world now. Ashwin is the son of Tamil writer Era Murugan, who scripted the blockbuster Billa 2, starring popular actor Ajith. But the 25-year-old chose a different path. Instead of pen, Ashwin trained his fingers to tame the cricket ball, that too in the difficult art of leg-spin.

On Saturday, Ashwin might have felt fully convinced that his decision to focus on cricket was not a wrong one as he was picked by the Rising Pune Supergiants for a whopping Rs 4.5 crore, 45 times his base price of Rs 10 lakh.

While his record in List A games may not be enviable he made an impression with is brilliant effort in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy tournament in January. He picked up 10 wickets from six matches in the domestic T20 tournament at an impressive economy rate of 5.52. His strike rate was a superb 14.

Obviously, Ashwin was thrilled to get the contract with the Pune based franchise. “It was a really emotional moment for me as I was watching the auction with my father. I was hoping to get picked up by a team at least for the base price. But this 4.5 crore came as a big surprise. Now, hopefully, I can be a part of the team’s victory,” he said.

In his quest, Ashwin will have Ashwin senior as company. Off-spinner R Ashwin too will be playing for the Supergiants in the ninth edition of the IPL. So, it is reunion time for these two who also went to the same college – Sivasubramanya Nadar College of Engineering in Chennai.

MSK Prasad felicitated

M S K Prasad, former India and Andhra stumper and now a member of the senior national selection committee, was felicitated by the Visakhapatnam District Cricket Association (VDCA). Andhra Cricket Association president D V S S Somayajulu presided over the function.

ACA Secretary and MP Gokaraju Gangaraju hailed Prasad’s contributions as a cricketer and administrator. “Prasad has immensely contributed to the growth of cricket in Andhra as a cricketer and as an administrator. He never forgot his roots and where he came from. He has that humility. It is that quality (which has) helped him to scale heights even after moving away as a cricketer,” said Gangaraju.

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