It was ironic that those who discouraged Archana from pursuing the game were among the ones who gathered at her thatched roof house in Ratai Purwa, around 100 kms from the state capital, to watch the game before celebrations followed.
“Even during the match yesterday we were afraid that the power might go off and we might not be able to see our sister. But when a police official came to know about this, he sent an inverter and battery to our house and our whole village watched the match on TV outside the house,” said Archana’s brother Rohit.
The spinner, who took a sensational one-handed catch apart from grabbing two wickets in the final, has had to overcome hurdles at every step. Her mother was rebuked for allowing Archana to play the game after her father died of cancer in 2008, and then, a snake-bite led to the death of her brother in 2017.
Archana took all those setbacks in her stride on way to becoming a standout performer of a champion outfit. The invaluable guidance of coach Kapil Pandey and India cricketer Kuldeep Yadav also went a long way as she rose through the ranks.
Besides his rich knowledge on the art of spin, Kuldeep also helped her with cricketing gear when they trained together in Pandey’s academy in Kanpur. “When Archana came to me in 2017, I made her bowl and I came to know of her talent in no time. She didn’t have resources and no roof to live in Kanpur and her village was about 30 kms from Kanpur and she couldn’t come everyday,” Pandey told PTI.
Recalling the hard work gone into the making of Archana, Pandey said that with the help of her teacher Poonam Gupta, she took a room on rent in JK Colony of Kanpur.
“When Kuldeep used to be in Kanpur, he would practice with kids including Archana and teach all the players the finer points of cricket. Earlier Archana used to bowl medium pace but later I asked her to bowl off-spin and then she became a good off-spinner,” said the coach.
Archana’s village in Bangarmau tehsil was reverberating with celebrations after India’s victory over England in the final. Mother Savitri Devi and Rohit led the celebrations and distributed ‘laddus’ to every visitor.
Though her mother is not fully aware of the contribution of her daughter in the winning squad, she was happy to see Archana on TV screens.
“I don’t know much about cricket, I just saw my daughter playing on the field on TV and I am happy. I have been distributing ‘laddus’ in the village since last night,” Archana’s mother told PTI on Monday.
Archana’s father Shivram died when she was only four years old. At the age of five, she was enrolled in the primary school of the village and later she got admitted in class 6 of Kasturba Gandhi Residential School, Ganjmuradabad.
It was Archana’s teacher Poonam Gupta in Kasturba Gandhi school who discovered the hidden talent in her. After completing class 8, Poonam took him to Pandey’s academy.
Rohit, who is four years older, said that before the final Archana had sent a message on mobile, ‘Brother, please pray to God that we win today’ and he told her not to panic.