Why Deepti Sharma was favourite to receive Arjuna Award 2020

India all-round cricketer Deepti Sharma appeals for a wicket.

Ever since India reached the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup final, the team has managed to “take a share of the attention pie” from their male counterparts.

In 2018, while the BCCI nominated Shikhar Dhawan for the Arjuna Award, Smriti Mandhana who took home the honour. This, despite the board not nominating her name for the award.

Indian cricket’s apex body has worked towards making amends. In 2019, leg-spinner Poonam Yadav was nominated alongside Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja. Yadav and Jadeja found favour among the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development to bag the coveted Arjuna Award. 

Talented yet Brave

Deepti Sharma has delivered with regularity for her country, meriting the recognition. She’s best described as a left-handed middle order batter who likes to keep the scorecard ticking. As a brave off-spin bowler, the Agra native takes the new ball and bowls within the field restrictions.

In the 2020 World T20, she executed her role of keeping a lid on the scoring well. Her economy rate was often below 5 runs per over. In the final at Melbourne, Australia had rampaged their way to a big score. Just when it looked like India were going to chase in excess of 200, Deepti pegged them back with wickets of Meg Lanning and Ashleigh Gardner. That India wilted in the run-chase after being unbeaten all tournament was surprising. Still, Deepti held her own as more experienced batters crumbled around her. She top-scored for India with 33.

A batting average of 38 and bowling average of 27 in WODIs is indicative of her multifacetedness. She basically allows Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur to play an extra batter behind her. Thanks to Deepti, India can play a genuine batter at No.6 – adding cushion to the middle order. Equally adept at bowling 4 or 10 overs, she’s a no-nonsense bowler who’s happy sticking to the basics. She’s still a hungry wicket-taker. Deepti Sharma remains the only Indian to take a 6-wicket haul in WODIs.
 
Along with Poonam Raut, she was involved in the highest opening partnership in 50 over cricket in both the men’s and women’s game! She scored 188 on that day in 2017, creating multiple records in the process. 

Deepti Sharma celebrates after taking a wicket for the Trailblazers in the 2019 Women’s T20 Challenge. She took 4/14 against Velocity.

A true all-rounder

It’s easy to forget that she’s only 22. That Deepti and Shikha Pandey are the only high quality genuine all-rounders in India at the moment only emphasises her exclusivity and importance to the team.

Among cricketers, she’s got competition from Ishant Sharma and Dhawan – who BCCI seems to be lobbying for considering his “seniority” in the men’s team. That’s where the jostle begins. Other women vying for the award are 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medalists Manu Bhaker (Shooting) and Madhurika Patkar (Table Tennis). Silver medalists at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games Vandana Katariya and Monika Malik are also in contention.

There are 29 other athletes whose names have been put forward. It would be wrong to suggest that any one particular athlete deserves it more than the other. So whether or not Deepti becomes an Arjuna Awardee in 2020, rest assured that the winners would have warranted the prestige.

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