Archana Devi is an Indian cricketer who plays for the India women’s under-19 team. She was a part of the Indian squad that won the ICC Women’s Under-19 Cricket World Cup in 2023. She previously represented the Uttar Pradesh Women’s team.
Archana Shivram Devi was born on Tuesday, 7 September 2004 (age 18 years; as of 2022) in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Coming from a humble background, Archana grew up in a house made of straw in Ratai Purwa village of Unnao District, Uttar Pradesh. She had a difficult childhood. Archana’s father died of cancer when she was four, leaving her mother, Savitri Devi, with loans to repay and three children to raise. She did her schooling at the all-girls boarding school Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya in Ganj Muradabad. It was Archana’s school teacher Poonam Gupta who recognised her sporting talent and decided to enrol her in Kanpur’s Rovers Cricket Club to train under coach Kapil Pandey, who is known for training Indian spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
Archana Devi with her coach Kapil Pandey
Kanpur is 30 km away from Archana’s native village. Therefore, Kapil, with the help of Poonam and others, rented a room for Archana in J. K. Colony, Kanpur. Kuldeep Yadav also lent his support to Archana by buying her a cricket kit. Whenever Kuldeep visited Kanpur, he would practice with Archana and other trainees, teaching them nuances of cricket. In an interview, Poonam talked about Archana’s zeal for cricket and said,
I saw a passion in her and I had this gut feeling that this girl is a talent and if given a good platform, can play for the country. I got her registered in the Kanpur Cricket Association and did my bit to help her, rest it was all her hard work.”
In the beginning, Archana used to bowl medium pace, but later, Pandey asked her to bowl off-spin and then she became a good off-spinner.
Height (approx.): 5′ 4″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Shafali Verma, Hrishita Basu, and Archana Devi celebrating a wicket during India vs England, Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup final in Potchefstroom, South Africa on 29 January 2023
Archana’s father, Shivram, died of cancer in 2008. Thereafter, Savitri Devi solely raised her three children by working as a field labourer. Later, Savitri’s maternal family gifted her a cow. Thereafter, she supplemented her income by selling the dairy products she made from her cow’s milk. Archana’s brother Budhiman Singh died of a snakebite in 2017. Her brother Rohit Kumar worked at a clothing factory in Kapashera Border in New Delhi, but he lost his job during the first lockdown in March 2022.
Archana Devi (right) with her brother Rohit and mother, Savitri Devi (centre)
Her first match was in Assam in 2018 when she represented Uttar Pradesh’s U-16 team in a match against Assam. She picked up three wickets in her first match. Soon, she made her way to the U-19 team from where she graduated to team India A in November 2022. In November 2022, she was named to the India U19 Women’s squad for the home series against New Zealand U19 Women’s. The five-match T20 series was held at the Mumbai Cricket Association’s ground in Bandra Kurla Complex. She represented India A in the Quadrangular Women’s U19 T20 Series 2022 which won by 77 runs. Her impressive performance in the Women’s U19 T20 Challenger Trophy 2022 and Quadrangular Women’s U19 T20 Series 2022 led to her selection in India’s squad for the ICC Women’s Under-19 Cricket World Cup. The squad consisted of Shafali Verma (captain), Shweta Sehrawat (vice-captain), Richa Ghosh (wicket-keeper), G Trisha, Soumya Tiwari, Sonia Mendhiya, Hrishita Basu (wicket-keeper), Sonam Yadav, Mannat Kashyap, Hurley Gala, Parshavi Chopra, Titas Sadhu, Falak Naz, Shabnam MD. The tournament took place in January 2023 in South Africa with matches being played in the T20 format. On 29 January 2023, the Indian women’s cricket team won the ICC Women’s U-19 Cricket World Cup title after beating England by seven wickets in the final at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom, South Africa.
Indian Women U-19 team after winning the U-19 T20 World Cup 2023
The win carved India’s name in the history books as the inaugural champions of the age-group tournament. An off-spinner, Archana Devi took two wickets for 17 runs in three overs, showing an extraordinary performance in the final match. She also pulled off a stunning one-handed catch during the final match.
Archana Devi pulling off a one-handed stunner during India vs England, Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup final in Potchefstroom, South Africa on 29 January 2023
- Her batting style is right-hand Bat, and her bowling style is right-arm offbreak.
- Her mother fondly calls her Baby.
- Archana grew up playing cricket with her brother Budhiman, who was just a year older than her. One day she hit a shot, and the ball went into the under-constructed room that they had stopped building after the death their father’s death. Usually, Budhiman would use a bat to get the ball out of the lumber, but that day he used his hands and was bitten by a Cobra which led to his death. Budhiman unconditionally supported Archana’s dream to become a cricketer and his last words were,
Archana ko cricket khilao”
(Let Archana play cricket)
- For a long time, Archana Devi’s mother, Savitri Devi, was a victim of Indian society’s regressive mindset. She was often taunted by her relatives for “showing her daughter the wrong path” by encouraging her to play cricket. Savitri was referred to as a “daayan” (witch) after she lost her husband to cancer and her son Budhiman to a snake bite. In an interview, Archana’s brother Rohit Kumar recalled the insults endured by his mother and said,
Meri maa ko daayan bulate they gaon waale, kehte they pehle apni husband ko kha gayi, fir apne bete ko, inko dekh le toh raasta badal lete they, humari ghar ko daayan ka ghar kahaa jaata tha.”
(They used to call my mother a witch, they would say she first killed her husband, then her son. If anyone sees her on the road, they will change their route. Our home was called witches’ house)
In an interview, Savitri revealed that Archana liked to dress up in boyish clothes as a kid and detested wearing frocks. People would frown upon Archana’s clothing style and blame Savitri for her manlike attributes. When Savitri enrolled Archana at the Kasturba Gandhi Awasiya Balika Vidyalaya in Ganj Moradabad, which is 15-20 km away from their native village, Ratai Purwa, there were whispers in the village that Savitri had sold Archana to some dubious dealer. In the interview, while recalling the taunts she received from the neighbourhood, Savitri said,
Ladki ko bech diya, ladki ko galat dhande mey daal diya hai, ye saari baatein mere muh pe bolte they”(I have sold my daughter, I have put her in a wrong line. People used to tell me these things to my face)
Although the family members worked hard to make ends meet, they were constantly hit by adversities. Rohit Kumar, while describing the hardships faced by them, said,
We face floods every year. Half the time, our farm is flooded with waters of the river Ganga. We depended on the milk of our cow and buffalo (one each). We survived all these years because of our mother. She even forced me to complete my graduation and now wants me to prepare for government jobs.”
Archana took all those setbacks in her stride on her way to becoming a standout cricketer.
- For the T20 World Cup final, a local cop arranged an inverter to ensure an uninterrupted power supply to Archana Devi’s native village Ratai Purwa as there were frequent power cuts.