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August 9, 2002

Testing time for young Isa

Andrew Preston

As Test debutant Parthiv Patel sat in the Trent Bridge pavilion waiting for his chance to bat, another 17-year-old Test debutante was having an even more frustrating day.

Isa Guha, the first cricketer of Indian origin to be part of the England women's cricket team, was raring to go, but no play was possible on the opening day of England's First Test against India at the Shenley Cricket Ground.

Nevertheless, it has been quite a summer for the right-arm medium pace bowler. Isa came into the international side in July through a stroke of luck and she then seized her chance. Two senior players, Sarah Collyer and Kathryn Leng, were left out of the one-day squad after taking an unauthorized holiday in Tenerife.

Isa, who is barely 5 feet tall, opened her account with two wickets against India on her senior debut in Jersey. Then, in the final of the 2002 Tri-Series tournament against New Zealand, she took a wicket in her opening over.

But a Test debut is still a huge moment.

"I wasn't even expecting to be included in the one-day side so this is a really amazing feeling," she says. 'I found out about a week ago that I was to be included in the squad and I was really ecstatic. It's a dream come true."

And does the fact that it is against India make it even more special?

"I have always enjoyed watching Tendulkar and the other stylish Indian batsmen. Obviously, it's amazing to play against the Indian women because they are such a good team. But it hasn't been extra special for me. I'm British born and bred so I've always wanted to play for England."

Isa was born and grew up in High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. Her father Barun Guha, who sells refrigeration units to supermarkets, moved to Britain from Calcutta in 1965, returning to India for an arranged marriage to Roma, a teacher, in 1974.

"My mum and dad noticed my ability at cricket early on when I used to throw and catch the ball when I was about four or five. My mum used to hand a ball to me and I would throw it back to her.

"Then, when I was eight my dad saw that I was interested in going to see my brother, Kaushik, down at the local club, so he put me in with the colts. I started off with the boys and then went to girls' trials when I was about 10."

She then went on to play for the Thames Valley women's teams, for Reading Ridgeway in the Premier Division and the England Under-19s.

"I really owe my parents so much. They would drive me to games all the time and they always made themselves available to take me to training and supported me financially as well."

At the same time as this break into international cricket, Isa has also been trying to study hard.

"I had to take two weeks off for the one-day tournament and I was told to catch up on my work while on tour. It was a bit hard, so I'm having to organise myself well now so that I can fit it all in.

"I am taking A Levels in maths, chemistry and human biology next year. That will be my last year at school so I need to be thinking about university applications now."

And does she plan to continue with her cricket?

"I'd love to be selected consistently, and I just want to play for England for as many years as I can, like bowler Clare Taylor, who has been going for 14 years. I'd like to be like her; I think that's an incredible achievement.

"Now National Lottery funding has been introduced, it means that women's cricket can be semi-professional over here. It's great that more money is being pumped into the game and, hopefully, in the future it'll get even better."



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