From playing with plastic bats and borrowed kits to getting picked by Royal Challengers Bangalore for Rs 1.5 crore in WPL Auction, Renuka charts her path

As Indian pacer Renuka Singh Thakur got a successful bid of Rs 1.5 crore by Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Women’s Premier League auction on Monday afternoon, mother Sunita Thakur and brother Vinod Thakur at their village Parsa in Rohru district in Himachal Pradesh. With Renuka losing her father Kehar Singh at a young age, Sunita worked in the Himachal Irrigation department and public health department as a fourth class employee and as the 27-year-old pacer got a successful bid in the first ever WPL auction, Sunita remembered the hard days faced by the family.

“Whatever Renuka has achieved is due to her hard work and passion for the sport. As a youngster, she would always accompany her brother to the village ground near the nullah and would play in the boys’ teams. After the death of my husband, we struggled financially but I never let that come in between my daughter’s cricketing dreams. She always watched IPL matches with interest and to see her play in the WPL for a team will be a dream come true for all of us,” said Sunita Thakur while speaking with The Indian Express from Parsa village.

With the village having a small cricket ground near Kundi Nullah, Renuka would practice with the village boys in the morning as well evenings between her school time. With the boys including her brother Vinod playing matches in nearby villages, a young Renuka would also travel with them to play before her uncle Bhupinder Singh Thakur advised her to give trials for the HPCA Academy at Dharamshala. The subsequent years saw her train at the academy and she emerged as the leading wicket-taker in the BCCI Women’s one Day trophy in 2019 with 23 wickets.

The last three years have seen Renuka playing in seven women’s ODIs and 28 women’s T20Is including the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham where she picked up a total of 11 wickets including two four-wicket hauls. “When she started playing cricket, she would always pick up whatever was available like wooden sticks or plastic bats from home or neighbourhood to play with the boys. Sometimes, she would return home crying that she did not get her turn to bat or bowl. But as she performed well in the village tournaments, teams came to pick her up along with a new bat or ball and she would always return with a trophy. She still keeps her trophies in a small almirah at our home,” says Thakur

The 27-year-old pacer is currently in South Africa as part of the Indian women’s team in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup and the family watched India’s opening match against Pakistan on Sunday at their village. Even though Renuka failed to claim any wicket in the match, mother Sunita believes that she will be motivated by the WPL bid and will forget the mediocre performance in the opening match for India in the T20 World Cup.

“When she returned home with a silver medal from CWG, she made sure that the village girls saw the medal. Before going to the World Cup in South Africa, she came home and also gave some of her jerseys to the village girls. With her signing in the Women Premier League, I am sure more and more girls will be motivated on seeing her play on TV and dream about playing for WPL teams apart from India,” said Thakur.

While Renuka has not gotten the Rs two crore announced by the Himachal Government on winning the silver medal in 2022 CWG, Sunita had a talk with her daughter on how to spend the auction bid money. “We just had a talk with Renuka and she was excited to play for a franchise, which has former Indian captain Virat Kohli in their men’s team. She has not got the prize money of Commonwealth Games from HP government. She said she will spend this auction money on building a new home for the family, “ concluded Sunita.

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