W Power 2024

Shreyanka Patil and Asha Sobhana: The RCB spin duo are here to stay

The duo shared six wickets between each other by conceding just 26 runs, ensuring that Royal Challengers Bangalore lifted their maiden Women's Premier League trophy on Sunday

Published: Mar 18, 2024 06:28:32 PM IST
Updated: Mar 18, 2024 06:35:56 PM IST

Shreyanka Patil and Asha Sobhana: The RCB spin duo are here to stayShreyanka Patil of Royal Challengers Bangalore celebrates the wicket of Meg Lanning (c) of Delhi Capitals during the WIPL match between Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers at Arun Jaitley Stadium on March 10, 2024 in Delhi, India. Image: Pankaj Nangia/Getty Images

Delhi Capitals were 64-0 in seven overs after opting to bat first in the Women’s Premier League (WPL) final on Sunday. Things were completely going their way and it seemed Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) were in for a big chase. But they ended up with a meagre total of 113 runs. So, what happened in between?

The most precise answer would be Shreyanka Patil and Asha Sobhana. Before the duo spun their web around Delhi batters, Sophie Molineux had changed the momentum with a three-wicket haul. Patil, the off-spinner, and Sobhana, the leg-spinner, teamed up perfectly to run through the rest of the Delhi batting line-up. The duo shared six wickets between each other by conceding just 26 runs, ensuring RCB lifted their maiden WPL trophy.

It was not the first time these two young spinners steered RCB to victory, but they were instrumental with the ball for the team throughout WPL 2024. They were drafted in by the franchise last year and have since grown manifold.

Born in Karnataka, Patil was introduced to cricket at an early age as her father Rajesh Patil runs a cricket academy in the state. She initially tried various things before finally realising off-spin is her art. Her journey to professional cricket began when she made it to the Karnataka U-16 Women’s team.

Unlike most women cricketers in India, Patil's family was quite supportive of her passion because of their sports background. Her hunger to make it big though was something that made her elevate the talent further. She would spend hours practicing and bowling hundreds of balls daily.

 "The love I have towards this game, it is not just talent, it is also hard work. I was like 'no matter what the requirement is, I will do it'. Because practice is something you cannot avoid. For me, practicing for six hours a day helps. Maybe for another person, just two hours is enough," Patil told The New Indian Express in December last year.

Coach Arjun Dev played an important role in shaping up the youngster’s career. They both worked together to ensure Patil acquires all it takes to make it big.

"He (Arjun Dev) has helped me day in and day out, be it cricket or my health issues, be it my injuries, nutrition, everything he has done. Basically, he is like my another dad. I am very lucky to have two dads, one is Rajesh Patil, one is Arjun Dev. I am very grateful to have him as a coach," she had said

The off-spinner's major breakthrough came in 2022 when she was picked for South Zone for the Inter-Zonal T20 tournament. She took the opportunity in both hands by picking four wickets while conceding just seven runs in one of the matches.

Also read: Women's Premier League 2024: Forbes India's best XI of the tournament

This is when people started noticing her. In February 2023, she was picked by Royal Challengers Bangalore in the inaugural Women’s Premier League Auction at Rs10 lakh. Although she just took six wickets in seven games in the debut season, her drift, flight and fearless approach at such a young age was impressive.

Later in the year, to everyone’s surprise, Patil was signed by Guyana Amazon Warriors for the Women’s Caribbean Premier League (WCPL), becoming the first-ever Indian to play the league. She proved her worth in style by finishing as the highest wicket-taker of the tournament (nine wickets in five matches).

Her consistent performances at the domestic level finally bore fruit as she was handed her Indian debut cap against England in December 2023. Her impressive performances in T20Is got her a place in the one-day side as well. The time is not far when the 21-year-old will become a household name since her heroics in WPL 2024 have already indicated what she is capable of. She won Purple Cap (award for most wickets) as well as Emerging Player of WPL 2024 awards.

Shreyanka Patil and Asha Sobhana: The RCB spin duo are here to stayRoyal Challengers Bangalore's Sobhana Asha (R) celebrates with team mates the dismissal of UP Warriorz's Shwetha Sehrawat during the Women's Premier League (WPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and UP Warriorz at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on February 24, 2024. Image: Idrees Mohammed / AFP
Asha Sobhana, on the other side, is in her 30s but hasn’t given up on her dream of playing for India. With her performance in WPL 2024, she has reached a step closer to her long-pending dream. Asha was born in Thiruvananthapuram and started playing cricket with her cousins.

“I was a kid who was mad about sports. I didn’t know women’s cricket existed. We used to make balls out of paper, wrap it with milk packets and put rubber bands on it.” she had said in an interview with RCB captain Smriti Mandhana earlier in WPL 2024.

Sobhana was a huge Sachin Tendulkar fan too, “As a kid, I used to make bats out of coconut tree [barks] and put the number “10” on it, as though it was [Sachin] Tendulkar’s bat,” she said.

The 33-year-old started off as a fast bowler until a recommendation by a coach made her turn into a leg-spinner.

“I started playing cricket at the Central Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram under late Sreekumar sir. I started as a fast bowler but one day he saw me bowling leg-spin after a training session as I was tired. He did not get angry. But he told me to continue bowling leg-spin and it was a big turning point in my career,” she said.

Sobhana played age-group cricket for Kerala before getting into the senior team. She has been around domestic cricket for over a decade but got into recognition only after being drafted in by RCB in the WPL auction last year. In the first season, she only picked up five wickets in as many matches.

However, this season, she got into her groove by picking a five-wicket haul in the first match of WPL 2024. The leg-spinner became the first Indian to take a five-for in the tournament. She continued to bowl tight spells and take wickets throughout the WPL 2024, ending up as the second-highest wicket-taker of the tournament with 12 wickets in 10 matches.

“In domestic cricket, I worked so hard playing for 15 years and now getting the recognition, I'm feeling so relieved to finally get the recognition I deserve. WPL has not only changed my life, but it has changed the lives of several other players, especially the domestic players," she said.

RCB has shown faith in both these spinners despite their not-so-impressive first season. Now with a thumping performance in WPL 2024, the duo would doubtlessly serve the franchise for a long team and could even be bowling together for India very soon. 

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