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Natthakan Chantham: Thailand’s batting flame

A key part of the Thai outfit, the 25-year-old is one of the most recognisable players in the women's Associate game.

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Chantham. Natthakan Chantham. Rather, make that Natthakan “the keeper of Thailand batting’s flame” Chantham.

Today belongs to her. Tomorrow awaits her with the same fervid keenness as one awaits the release of a much-wanted Hollywood release on the big-screen.

She’s not going anywhere; on the contrary, Natthakan Chantham has only just begun.

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In a sport that’s often about number-crunching, it’s in the unvisited layers where the actual age of a cricketer lies. Ever wondered how?

Natthakan Chantham, all of 25, emanates bright hope for Thailand cricket, a side that those who do better in life instead of casting upon women’s cricket that gaze with a perpetual stare veiling their horrible obliviousness, would know is important. And matters. 

A little over three years back, when Thailand’s top-order batter arrived in the highest annals of the sport that today is her identity, making her debut (with status) in the format that’s as much entertainment-giving as it is demanding of its pursuers, she ended up on the wrong side of the result.

Pakistan women, participating in the Women’s T20 Asia cup were anything but an easy side to battle with.

Nida Dar, Sana Mir, Kainat Imtiaz, Bismah Maroof, and Diana Baig, were just some of the names in a smashing eleven that cut an imposing figure against a Thailand team that was, for the first time ever, engaging in a slugfest involving prominent Asian sides.

But there was one batter who was anything but perturbed.

She was responsible for 17 of her team’s lowly 67 run outing, an innings which confronted the pace of Diana Baig, arguably, among the fastest bowler in the game behind Shabnim Ismail, Katherine Brunt and Shamelia Connell at present.

Nattakan Chantham gets 50, Chanida Sutthiruang in foreground
Natthakan Chantham acknowledges the crowd after scoring a half century during the ICC Women’s T20 Cricket World Cup match between Pakistan and Thailand (Photo: ICC)

Although hers was a brief stay at the wicket, but in the context of her team, she faced 20 of the 120 deliveries, that’s a sixth on her own.

And while she denied Baig a shot at her stumps aided by perilous movement off the surface at Kuala Lumpur, she also held her ground against the foxy turners.

The two boundaries that were stuck with poise could’ve also fallen for erratic powerful hits, but one’s glad that this thinking cricketer held herself back to go on the offensive.

Though, in the most recent times, the opposition that faced the ire of what can often be an unsparing bat was Zimbabwe.

Nothing changed, truth be told, from the 2018 contest until the 2021 game against Thailand.

Only the venue did. Malaysia earlier, Zimbabwe, until very recently. The format too didn’t change.

Nor did Natthakan Chantham’s approach to carrying her team’s hope in that department of the game that fills stadia around the world in T20 cricket: batting.

What did change, however, was the magnitude of runs and the attacking instincts with which they were made.

The calm and composed, “weather-any-storm” batter gave way to the whipper of the white-ball.

That is how a career-best T20I score of 88 was achieved taking just 65 deliveries in the contest.

In so doing, Chantham, as bright as the winning smile with which she interacts with the media, ticked off a certain box that amounts to success for batters in this great game of ours.

Playing nearly eleven overs on her own of the twenty stipulated, but of course, Natthakan Chantham was the great carver of boundaries and smasher of sixes in etching an inning that perhaps deserves to be considered as among the best T20 knocks in the women’s game of 2021. And the strike rate? 135.

Moreover, this wasn’t just a first half-century for Chantham in Africa. It was a decisive one in that the brilliant and timely knock, which ultimately helped her team clinch a T20I series win, sealed the fate of the series for the visitors.

Big games and mega opponents shall keenly await to entangle with this Thai rhapsody, given her bat produces music and beats the ball to a rhythm of its own.

One reckons, while it would be certainly challenging against Lanning’s girls and Devine’s army, it can be said in no uncertain terms that from what she’s demonstrated thus far, Natthakan Chantham will hold it together, and will do well.

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