Making a maiden appearance in any field will leave you with butterflies in your stomach until that event actually gets going. Until you start your first day in office or face the first ball or bowl that first delivery and get that action out of your way, the anxiety is manifold.
You would expect the same thing with 50-year-old Sushma Sawant and 45-year-old Kshama Sane. But, more than the anxiety, it was the excitement levels that they felt.
Sawant and Sane became the first pair of women official scorers to do duty in a Test match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Friday. Never before have women scored in a Test at the Wankhede since January 1975, when it hosted its first Test.
Sushma and Kshama are on duty in the second and final Test between India and New Zealand, the start of which was delayed by two-and-a-half hours due to the wet outfield caused by rain from the previous two days.
It is not an easy job noting down every single delivery accurately and tallying the scores at the batter’s column and the bowlers’ figures. And, Sawant and Sane came out in flying colours on the first day of what was their maiden Test appearance as official scorers.
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It is often said when a batsman is out for no score “without disturbing the scorers”. But, the job of the officials actually noting down multiple entries in the scorebook to mark the batter falling for nought is the same as for anyone dismissed for a big score. And, if wickets fall in succession, there is little time to breathe for the scorers.
Sushma and Kshama are from the first batch of the BCCI’s women scorers when in 2010 the Indian cricket board began to encourage women to take up scoring seriously.
Sushma took up scoring for passion in 2008, encouraged by her husband, Nitin Sawant, who is a regular player in Mumbai cricketing circles for PJ Hindu Gymkhana and for his employers, RCF. For Kshama, it was her mother who pushed her into cricket at a very young age and she took up scoring for the love of it. Though she could not devote much time for scoring while she was making a career in the corporate world, she quit her work to become a full-time scorer in 2018.
Since then, there is no looking back for both of them.
Speaking about their first day at the Test match, Sushma, a resident of Chembur, said: “I was not nervous at all. Since I have done many Ranji Trophy and IPL matches, scoring is of the same pattern. I was only excited to be scoring in my first Test match.”
For Kshama, it was the anxiety of getting the match started. “I was sure the game would start on Friday. At the Wankhede Stadium, the water seepage is not much with the way the ground is structured. I knew that with sunshine, the outfield would be dry soon. When the Test actually started, I was really happy to acknowledge umpire’s signals. My 12-year-old nephew asked me where I sit and if I would come of TV. I told him that whenever the umpire signals for a boundary or no ball, you will know that I am the one acknowledging him. Not many are aware of the role the scorers play.”
Seated side by side with Sushma at the Wankhede Stadium press box, Sane presses the switch to acknowledge every signal of the umpires.
The two got to know of their Test appointment less than a week ago. “About four or five days before the Test, the MCA committee called me to say that I have been appointed to do the Test match,” said Sushma.
Sane was in Bengaluru to visit her cousin when the call for duty at the Test came. “I was anyway returning to Mumbai to score in the ensuing Vijay Hazare Trophy when I received a call from Vivek Gupte, a senior Mumbai Cricket Association scorer, about the appointment. I was only very happy to be scoring in a Test match,” she said.
‘Took up Scoring as Hobby’
Sushma took up scoring as a hobby and still does it for the love of it. “My husband is a cricketer, having played regularly in the Times Shield and Purushottam Shield. He encouraged me to take up scoring. Initially, I had no idea how to do. I said that if only I liked scoring would I continue,” said Sushma.
With numerous Ranji Trophy and other domestic tournaments of the BCCI, Sushma has only risen and continues to do so.
She said: “My husband’s friend and senior scorer, Ramesh Parab, encouraged me to take up scoring. He said it is a good field to be in. I felt excited after scoring in my first match that I still continue to do scoring. You get to see cricket ball-by-ball. Through my husband, I learnt how to watch cricket closely. There is a lot to learn.
“I feel good when scoring. I enjoy every match. In Ranji Trophy, we get more time to update the scoresheet whereas in T20, the game being so fast paced that we get less time. We can be more relaxed in long-duration format.”
While Sushma has scored in the 2013 Women’s World Cup, she dreams of scoring in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup in 2023, which India is hosting. “With the 2023 men’s World Cup coming, it is my dream to score in it. I am excited about it. I have done women’s World Cup matches but not men’s matches,” Sushma said.
She acknowledges the roles played by Parab in particular in guiding her as a scorer. She is proud to say that so far, she has had a clean sheet as far as tallying scores at the end of a day’s play or at the end of a match is concerned.
“While senior MCA scorers Pritam Parab and Ramesh Parab guided my in classes conducted by MCA, I also discuss the finer points of scoring with others including Rupesh Prabhudesai while also keep myself updated by reading books on scoring.”
‘Learn by Observing Seniors’
Kshama, too, acknowledges the roles played by the above mentioned senior scorers at the MCA and also those of Subodh Vaidya and Deepak Joshi among others. “I am thankful to all of them. I learn by observing other scorers, how proactive they are in giving out the details whoever asks for one, be it from the teams, the match officials, the broadcasters or from the media. They have all been encouraging,” said Kshama.
The resident of Nahur in Mumbai, Kshama actually kept wickets in her younger days and played for Mumbai at the under-15 level before academics and career in the corporate world took precedence.
“In 2006, I saw an advertisement in newspaper about scorers’ exam being conducted by the MCA. I did not know what all a scorer does in a match. I passed the exam, started scoring in local matches but could not give much time to scoring as I was working. I left the job in 2018 and have been scoring full time.”
Kshama fondly remembers the year 2010 when the BCCI called for women to take up scoring. “In 2010, the BCCI asked all associations to send women scorers for examination as it wanted to encourage women scorers in India. Nine of us from Mumbai went, seven passed. Four of us are active, one of them is a match referee and another is an umpire. I did my first BCCI match in 2016. Though I have done international matches for All India Radio, they do not come under the BCCI purview. I started loving the role of a scorer and thought why not go ahead with this. So far, so good. It has been a good journey. I never thought I would reach this level.”
Kshama’s key matches as a scorer include quite a few in IPL, a T20 International in 2017, the ODI between India and Australia in January 2020 before this Test.
For Kshama, her first day in a Test was a different experience. “Nobody even knows about scorers. And suddenly you are in the limelight because you are the first woman along with Sushma to be scoring in a Test in Mumbai. The media interviews was a different, exciting experience for me. I did not know how to react when many are asking about my career,” Kshama said.
Whatever challenges Kshama has faced as a scorer, she has brushed them aside, saying: “If you have passion for something, you overcome the challenges by neglecting them. We manage that.”
The joy of being on the toes all the time is what keeps Kshama glued to the game as a scorer. “You have to concentrate the entire match. You cannot say ‘my day was bad’. There is no room for excuses. You have to aware of the playing conditions. I try to keep updated. The scorer should be aware everything around cricket. I educate myself by reading and also discussing with my seniors,” she said.
Kshama said that a scorer, especially at the BCCI level, is a multi-tasker.
She explained how a typical day in a domestic match goes for a scorer: “Scoring is done on the compute as well as on the manual sheets. You need to be multi-tasking. When we do matches like Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, we don’t sit with the media. You need to handle a walkie-talkie to be in touch with the broadcasters who want names of the players, which you confirm with the team. Not always a team member sits with you. You have to communicate with the video analyst, who sits with the match referee and also tell the broadcaster. Amidst all these, you have to update the scoresheet.
In T20s, we have the VJD system similar to the DLS Method. Hardly there are 10 minutes between innings. In that time, you update the VJD sheet, give it to the match referee. You have to complete the scoresheet on time. Updating the scoresheet while also doing other things is challenging. At the same time, the teams ask for details or bowling analysis. That also has to be given. How well you juggle all these are the challenges in scoring. As you gain experience, you get used to it and become a multitasker.”
Kshama also derives joy out of watching some really good performances. Like the triple hundred Sarfaraz Khan scored for Mumbai against Uttar Pradesh in the 2019-20 season to give Mumbai the lead in a high-scoring match.
She recollected a women’s domestic match she was a part of earlier this year. “There was this player from Jharkhand, Indrani Roy. She scored a brilliant hundred. She kept wickets for entire innings, opened the innings and scored a century. The way she ran between the wickets was amazing. I was so happy for her that I went to congratulate her after the match. And, in June when the Indian team for the UK was announced, she was in the squad. It is moments like these that give you joy and satisfaction, seeing them climb up the ladder from domestic matches. Similar case with Prithvi Shaw, having seen him at the under-16 and under-19 levels and now, he is a star.”
Kshama does have her ambitions. “I am not thinking too far ahead. I am happy to have got a Test match. If I get to do a World Cup match, it would be an icing on the cake. Whatever match I get, I will enjoy. I am keen to do scoring in Harris Shield and Giles Shield (schools matches in Mumbai). These schools matches keep you on your toes and you also learn a lot,” Kshama said.
Having made a mark in Mumbai cricketing circles, Sushma and Kshama are here to stay as scorers with more opportunities lined up for them.