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Since 1st March, 1999
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Cricket? Must be Indian
- Isa’s England beats Aussies

London, Feb. 18: Cricket has almost proved that it is an Indian game accidentally discovered by the British. Ask Isa Guha, who has shown Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his boys how to handle the Aussies.

Isa, a 22-year-old Bengali born and brought up in the UK, was today named Player of the Match after taking nine wickets for 100 runs as the England women’s cricket team retained the Ashes by beating Australia at the Bradman Oval in Bowral by 6 wickets.

As she left with her side to celebrate with her prize
of Australian $1,500 (Rs 53,700), Isa told The Telegraph: “I feel so, so proud of the team. For me, it’s the most precious occasion of my life. I wanted to bowl the best for my team and for my country.”

The Indian connection does not end there. Guess who top-scored for Australia? Vice-captain Lisa Carprini Sthalekar, born in Pune in 1979.

Asked about the most critical moments in the match, medium pacer Isa said: “The most important was to get the Aussie captain (Karen Rolton). Once you get their captain…. I got her in both innings.

” Isa added: “It was brilliant to be playing at the Bradman Oval and it was an extra special win. It’s great to be part of such a special occasion.”

As for the future, Isa, who took a second-class upper division in Biochemistry (Hons) at University College London, is now wondering whether to return to university to do a PhD in her subject after taking a year out for cricket. “I love science,” she said.

Isa Tara Guha, born in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, in 1985, was brought into the England side when she was only 17. What makes her achievements as a pace bowler even more remarkable is that she is only 5ft 1in tall. She is also an excellent fielder.

England left-arm spinner Monty Panesar is also of Indian origin. So, does the subcontinent connection bear out sociologist Ashis Nandy’s wry observation in the past that cricket is an “Indian game accidentally discovered by the British”?

“I said that in the context of the Indian personality being better suited for cricket than the British make-up. But these two (Guha and Sthalekar) are more expatriate than Indian. I am not sure my theory applies to them,” Nandy pointed out in Delhi today.

Nandy explained why Indians, in his opinion, were best suited to cricket. The sport, he said, involved playing against “yourself” more than defeating an “opponent”.

“Also, luck and fate play a massive role in cricket, unlike other sports…. Both the element of luck, and the aspect of performing against oneself, are traits Indian are brought up with,” he added.

Asked whether Isa was English or Bengali, her father Barun thought for a moment before replying: “She is 75 per cent English, 25 per cent Bengali. She cannot speak Bengali but she understands Bengali. She loves to come to Calcutta, and meet all her relations. May be the next trip will be at Christmas.”

He said: “We brought her up like any other parents in India. We gave her all the help. We did what any Bengali parents would do. We kept an eye on her. English children do their own thing after 14 or 15.”

Isa’s parents believe they have found the right balance in encouraging her to grow without being either too oppressive or giving no guidance at all.

Barun came to England from Calcutta in 1965 and returned briefly in 1974 to marry Roma, a schoolteacher. Isa received her first lessons in cricket from her brother, Kaushik, seven years her senior. While he made it into Buckinghamshire Minor Counties, Isa was destined for the top.

Roma eventually gave up her job so that she could drive Isa to net practice and games during her teenage years. Barun set up a business supplying refrigeration parts to supermarkets and has recently been joined by his son, also a biochemistry graduate.
Barun and Roma travelled to Australia to follow their daughter on the field (though she stays separately with the team).

“We are very proud,” Barun told The Telegraph. “She bowled brilliantly; I have never seen her bowl so well. This is the biggest day of my life — her life.”

Like her husband, Roma said: “I feel so proud of her, especially her achievement. She is so happy. She has come back so strongly.”

“We recognised her potential,” she said. “As parents, we did not say, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that.’ We saw Isa as a person, a human being, not in terms of her gender.”
Roma agreed that with Isa’s achievements, it may not be easy to find a suitable Bengali boy for her daughter with matching qualifications. “We can’t do it,” Roma laughed. “Isa is very strong-willed.”

Roma met the parents of the other “Indian” on the opposite side. Sthalekar was out for 98 in the second innings, after being caught by Isa off Beth Morgan. “I felt bad when I met her parents,” she admitted.

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