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India Women v England Women 2023/24

Interview – Sneh Rana: ‘When there’s negativity in your mind, you can’t learn’

Sneh Rana
by Karunya Keshav 7 minute read

Sneh Rana’s ability to look for the positive helps her claw her way back to the national side, writes Karunya Keshav.

On the second morning of India’s first home Test in nearly a decade, Sneh Rana was handed the new ball. In her three overs of off-spin, she got some turn. Having to wait till well into the second session for her next spell, she wasn’t immediately fluent. But then, she flighted a delivery, dropped it well outside off and found sharp turn to claim the batter’s stumps.

In a winter of content for the red-ball romantic, when women’s Test cricket returns to the home of spin bowling, moments like this warm the heart.


The batter was Nat Sciver-Brunt, England’s best. With her wicket, a game that had begun to turn thanks to Deepti Sharma was comprehensively spun India’s way. Sharma was the star, with nine match wickets in India’s comprehensive 347-run win. Rana finished with two – and a reputation intact for making small but high-impact contributions.

Her 30 off 73 in the first innings followed by two wickets were supporting acts in the match situation to Deepti’s efforts with bat and ball, but they served to remind us that Rana Makes Things Happen.

Her secret sauce is part skill, part her “never-give-up-wala attitude”. On her cupboard at home, she has an India flag and a “Believe in yourself” magnet. Her social media, even while being a journal of her lows and personal grief, is a scroll of uplifting affirmations set against the backdrop of family and the Himalayas. The tattoo on her hand attests, “I refuse to sink”.

It’s a mindset that has served her well. Because in a sport of ups and downs, Rana’s story has been particularly so.

In 2015, New Zealand’s Sophie Devine took her for 32 in a single over in the Bangalore T20I. Her chances to make the World Cup the following year were comprehensively dashed by a knee injury. With improved fitness and more body in her action, she thrived in the responsibility of the domestic circuit and fought her way back into national contention in 2021. But, just months before the comeback Test in England, in which she took four wickets and made 80 not out to earn a memorable draw, she lost her father.

Since her return, the all-rounder has been India’s third-highest wicket-taker in T20Is and among the top five for the country in ODIs. This, despite playing only 20 of India’s 50 matches in this period. She’s made winning contributions in crucial World Cup and Commonwealth Games. Yet, she has also been dropped, “rested” or warmed the benches.

On the domestic circuit, she’s much respected as a selfless, successful leader, who steps up in the tough moments. After an injury to Beth Mooney, she rose to lead Gujarat Giants in the Women’s Premier League, joining Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana as the only Indian captains. But she has her task cut out in season two to improve on their last-place standing.

“There are some people who are easily drawn to negative thinking,” she explained her philosophy in a chat to Wisden. “But if in every situation you search for and find something positive, you tend to learn a lot. When there’s negativity in your mind, you can’t learn. I’ve always taken things positively.”

The change in perspective, she said, was sparked by her career-threatening injury in 2016. The ACL injury laid her low, she put on weight, lost opportunities and lost her way from cricket for nearly a year.

“My parents have always told me that whatever happens is for the best. In 2016, when I got the injury and I got out of the team, I started looking for more positivity.”

This home season, Rana has been consigned to a Test specialist’s role. Against England, but for four more overs with the new ball in the fourth innings, she had little to do as the match was wrapped up on the third morning. Towards the end of day two, after the high of the Sciver-Brunt wicket earlier, she got a taste of her own medicine: Charlie Dean got the ball to turn in sharply, and Rana found her stumps disturbed. A first-ball duck to dramatically underscore another sudden turn in fortunes.

Rana’s career is now in a peculiar place. With Sharma the main off-spinning all-rounder in the side, her spot, especially in T20Is, is rarely assured. She has been sidelined as the team has trialled options, many younger than her 29 years, in the shortest format.

“I just do my job,” she brushes aside talk of competition. “If you think about the competition for places, it diverts your mind. We already have to think so much about things like preparation, so why take on more burden! I just focus on myself – we shouldn’t take on unnecessary tension!”

Rana’s knack of making things happen means she has plenty of supporters and, as unfortunate as it sounds, her call-up into the XI always seems only an injury away to someone. With a T20 World Cup in Bangladesh coming up, Rana might be swimming against the tide right now, but to draw from her own ink, her short-format dreams are far from sunk.

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