Tarannum Pathan, radiant in her own glory

Tarannum Pathan has been telling herself for a long time, “I’m still the best, even if I’m not playing for India.”

The 30-year-old off-spinning all-rounder wants to cling to the idea that the ultimate ideal of a domestic player can never come true, call it ignorance or motivation.

Therefore, even though Radha Yadav was the focus of attention on Sunday when she won Player of the Match and flashed the Purple Cap, it’s unlikely that Tarannum, her old colleague at Baroda, would have perceived the world that way.

Of the 240 delivery of action, 17 of them had her in focus. She got Meg Lanning to forget her form and play an unusual slog out of the six balls she bowled. And if it ended being a six, so what?

The match was essentially lost by her team when she came to bat. However, in the few minutes that she batted, she was in danger of being out for a first-ball duck and was only spared by a call from the umpire. She attempted a forceful swipe but failed miserably. She got so lost early on that when the ball struck her pad and trickled behind, she continued looking for it, ignoring her partner’s call.

After calming down for a little period, she manoeuvred the ball about using the bowler’s pace until she was hit by a yorker that crushed her toes and fell. That put a stop to her spectacular stay at the crease, finally.

A forgettable 11-ball 9 would have been the ideal outcome. However, Tarannum, who had only a few days earlier expressed gratitude for simply being named to the squad, knew that her name would come up years later in a trivia question about the first Gujarati woman to be selected for a franchise based in her state.

She knew she might not get to play in the starting eleven this year, at the very least. However, Sneh Rana, the team’s other offspinning all-rounder, had an injury that has not been made public, which made room for her to play against the Delhi Capitals.

Regardless of the narrative she finds herself immersed in or her preferred method of self-motivation, she maintains a realistic perspective of the world around her despite her lofty goals. Both are what propel her career. She is one of the few seasoned players in women’s domestic cricket to be given a chance in the highly coveted T20 competition.

It was only a few years ago, just after her father died during the COVID-19 epidemic, that she briefly considered quitting the game. She was unsure about her job because of her limited resources and her reluctance of taking risks. She had discussed this goal to become a coach with her friends and psychologist. They dissuaded her, and her brother urged her to keep concentrating on cricket.

Despite all of its early potential, her career didn’t take off the way she had hoped. A younger generation from age-group cricket was being developed, and by 2023, numerous offspinning all-rounders, including Deepti Sharma, Dayalan Hemalatha, Sneh Rana, and Shreyanka Patil, had lined up for a spot in the Indian side. She even moved away from her home state of Baroda in 2023 to play professionally for a very lesser Goa squad. She was disappointed not to be selected in the previous year’s auction and, after trying out for the Giants and Mumbai Indians, she had given up on being selected this year. She didn’t even pay attention to the auctions that were held in advance of the 2024 season.

However, like with most of her father’s characteristics, nothing could take away from her the burning determination to strive for her dream of playing for India. “I’ve never held myself against anybody. I forced myself to think, ‘If I’m the best, why should I look at other people?’

“I was very close to my father; he is the source of many of my characteristics, including my impulsive reactions, rage, and speech style. I could tell that he was obstinate in his desire to live even while he was dying. He operated rickshaws. He is the source of my drive.”

Since 2021, Tarannum Pathan has undergone a metamorphosis, relishing the more tranquil moments in Goa with her new local squad. She tells Cricbuzz, “Since my father passed away, I’ve been quiet.” “People now inquire, ‘Tarannum kaha hai?'” Where is Tarannum? Pehle to dikh jaati thi, poochna nahi padta tha…. In the past, we didn’t need to inquire around since she was omnipresent. However, I’m content with this quieter (shaant) version of myself.

Even in this more composed version of herself, though, is the tenacity her father instilled in her. The dream of donning the India colours may have begun to dwindle with each passing year, but just as Sunday’s opportunity to show to more people—not just herself—that she is the greatest—there would be optimism that additional opportunities would present themselves.

Tarannum’s role to the Gujarat Giants’ 25-run defeat by Delhi Capitals may have been little in the grand scheme of events, but she grants the director no authority over her story.

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