From being the first woman cricketer from Uttarakhand to represent India to becoming the leader of India’s spin attack in a span of just six years, Ekta Bisht’s journey has been one to remember. Since making her debut for India in an ODI against Australia at Chesterfield in 2011, Bisht has grown from strength to strength. And with her memorable spell of 5/18 against arch-rivals Pakistan on Sunday, she firmly established her credentials as India’s spin Queen.
When you are defending a total as low as 170 in ODI cricket, you need your bowling spearheads to step up. Bisht did exactly that as she broke the backbone of Pakistan batting line-up by claiming the wickets of three top-order batswomen – Ayesha Zafar (1), Sidra Nawaz (0) and Iram Javed (0) within the first eight overs of the innings. With the three strikes Pakistan were left gasping for breath as they were reduced to 14/4 inside first eight overs.
Not just that, when India needed to wrap things up quickly, skipper Mithali Raj again summoned the 31-year-old to go scythe through the tail and Bisht obliged with the wickets of Nashra Sandhu (1) and Diana Baig (0) off back-to-back deliveries in the 29th over to reduce Pakistan to 51/9 from 51/7. And when she finished her spell, the scorecard displayed impressive figures of 10-2-18-5. When she was also adjudged the ‘Player of the Match’ for her superb bowling efforts, it seemed that her career had finally come full circle.
Statistics of 68 wickets in 43 ODI matches at an average of 19.04 and economy rate of 3.30 tells the story about Bisht’s consistency since she made her debut. The numbers are pretty similar in T20Is also in which she has clinched 45 wickets in 36 matches at an impressive average and economy rate of 14.84 and 5.37 respectively.
Her contribution in India’s victories over the years has undergone a steep rise because of her wicket taking abilities and capability to build pressure. India have won 25 out of the 43 ODIs and 19 out of the 36 T20Is in which she has played till date. In those 25 One-dayers, Bisht has accounted for 50 wickets at an economy rate of 2.77 and average of 12.66 which is far better than her overall ODI record. And the result is similar in T20I cricket as well in which she has claimed 31 wickets in those 19 won at an average of 10.87 and economy rate of 4.72. Moreover, both her five-wicket hauls in ODIs have resulted in an Indian victory which sums up how much her performances directly influence India’s win percentage.
Bisht is now third in the list of India’s most successful spinners in ODIs after Neetu David (141 wickets) and Nooshin Al Khadeer (100 wickets). Bisht is 31 now and can easily continue to play for another five years. And the rate at which she is picking up wickets, she might even end up being the most successful spinner for India in ODIs.
The five-wicket haul that she claimed on Sunday was a testament to her sheer ability to make the ball talk in crunch situations. She is the central figure in the spin trio of Deepti Sharma, Ekta Bisht and Poonam Yadav.
Her accuracy, consistent purchase off the wicket, deceptive flight makes her stand out. The fact that she has a superb economy rate besides her sheer wicket-taking ability is a testimony to the control she possesses. She displayed that ability in the very first match of her career against Australia in foreign conditions where she claimed 2/32 from 10 overs. And she hasn’t looked back since then. This explains why she has become such a vital cog of the Indian women’s team in a short time span.
India Women are on a roll in the ongoing Women’s World Cup with three wins in three matches. And Bisht has proved to be the most valuable asset in conditions that do not suit spin bowling. Bisht didn’t have the best of times in the opener against England where she went wicket-less for 43 runs in nine overs but she bounced back with figures of 10-2-23-1 against the Windies and 10-2-18-5 against Pakistan which are also her second-best figures in ODI cricket after 5/8 against the same opposition earlier this year in the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifiers.
Bisht may not be India’s highest wicket-taker in ODIs like her team mate Jhulan Goswami. She may not have the same charisma as her skipper Mithali Raj. She may not have the same flamboyance and aggression as Smriti Mandhana. But she has the most lethal weapon in accuracy which makes her a silent killer who kills the opposition softly.
- Ekta Bisht is the only Indian player to take two five-fors in a calendar year in ODIs.
- Bisht is also the highest wicket-taker in 2017 in Women’s ODIs.
Bisht has taken 14 wickets from nine ODIs while opening the bowling which is the third most by any spinner (while opening the bowling) in Women’s ODIs.
Bisht is the only spinner to take a five-for while opening the bowling in Women’s ODIs.
With stats inputs from Umang Pabari
(This article first appeared on Firstpost on July 3, 2017)