A partnership that scores

Hemali and Sejal are quite the game-changer.

Hemali Desai (L) and Sejal Dave-Mehta (R) in Rajkot. (Photo: Skandan Sampath/Yahoo! Cricket)

Inking his own story | Saurashtra vs Punjab | Delhi Diary

Jiya re, Jiya re, Jiya re, Jiya


This is the song from Jab Tak Hai Jaan that Hemali Desai hums as she sits on her chair at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium in Rajkot. On one table right behind a mirror, are two laptops, a walkie-talkie, printer, a TV set and a clock. Alongside is her colleague Sejal Dave-Mehta, 23, who just recently got married to a finance professor. These two ladies are the scorers for the 2012-13 semi-final match between Saurashtra and Punjab.

They are always busy. And, boy, do they multi-task.

So much so, that this interview had to be taken during the lunch break at 12:00 PM - voices over a walkie-talkie were calling them over for lunch. But they delayed the meal, to oblige Yahoo! Cricket's request for a peek into their lives, which by their own admission is tedious and enjoyable at the same time.

While Hemali has played cricket as a wicket-keeper for Gujarat, Sejal is a hockey defender. A right full-back who took to cricket scoring at the behest of her coach Jagurati, who asked her to give it a try. Hemali started off in 1994, while Sejal dropped in to learn in 2003. Both have passed the BCCI's scorer's exam.

"Patience and concentration is a must for the job. We need to be here one hour before the match. We can't get up from the chair. Players ask for numbers, reporters ask for score sheets. There is simply no time", says Sejal, who has a BBA degree from MVM College in Rajkot.

"I have done my B.Com from PDM College. Diploma course in computers. Diploma course in computers", says Hemali. It is clear that she wants us to hear it twice, that she knows how to handle a computer. Double click."

"Online scoring is easier. But we do both. Technology has helped a lot. We can take a print out and share the scores with everyone. I can say that when a match is covered on TV, life is a lot easier. Player recognition is possible faster. Otherwise, dekhna padta hai. Baal lamba hai kya, sabka alag alag shtyle hai na. It is easier to track a fast bowler than a spinner. When there is no live coverage, we identify them by spotting their gait and mannerisms. Ek bowler toh har ball say pehlay socks adjust karta hai. Waisa," adds Hemali, who credits Niranjan Shah for giving her the chance to get into the profession.

This revelation is prompted by the fact that play has begun after lunch. Soon, a wicket falls, and Hemali looks out of the door and asks for the cricketer's name. She knows all the Saurashtra players, but the ones from the visiting team need confirmation.

"Mandeep Singh," comes the reply. The scorer's working area is right next to the dressing room.

"Who craze nahee hai. Cricketers toh sab kee tarah hee hain. Mainay kabhee bhee photo nahee liya hai unkay saath," say the two lady scorers. This when the dressing room is within sniffing distance.

And it is here that we get to see them at work. As the power goes off, the same is relayed by Hemali, to the match referee over the walkie-talkie. The batsman has struck a four, and Sejal waves a towel to the umpire, that his signal has been acknowledged. So that's why manual scoring is also needed. She marks it meticulously on a sheet, that has space for 30 overs, tracking a dot ball and a four. The lady uses as many as three in a day.

The power comes back, the TV set is promptly switched on. As Sejal continues to put pen to paper with dots and numbers, there is also an excel sheet on the laptop. The match scorecard. Hemali clicks on a wagon wheel, a pitch map, and also a series of numbers that denote the runs scored on her laptop. Her hands work quickly, and before you know it, she has them all at her finger tips.

"Wicket pachi che," she says. We then ask them to give us the exact number of matches that they have covered.

"8 internationals. Three 3-day matches. Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy. I can't remember", says Hemali.

She laughs when told that a scorer is supposed to remember her numbers.

"5 internationals. 40 Ranji Trophy matches," says Sejal with a smile.

"Earlier we used to get only 100 rupees per day. Abhee 5000 rupees per day. Plus allowances," says Hemali, when asked if it is possible to make a living as a scorer. The lady also said "No comments," when we asked her her age, but revealed that she also works as coach and selector of Saurashtra's women's cricket team.

"Family's support is very important. Meray sasural ka pura support hai. Bahut ladkiyaan hain jo yeh nahee kar patee hai," says Sejal. Hemali agrees. It is clear that their views and opinions are similar on a lot of things.

"Kaam Pasand hai. Barabar karengay," answers Hemali when we ask her if she will do this for the rest of her life. Sejal smiles, relaying that she too would do the same.

When asked if women do this job better than men. An official comes in and politely tell us that the area is designated only for match officials, when the match is going on.

Wrong question.

Matches

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