Karnataka players Veda Krishnamurthy and Rajeshwari Gayakwad take time out of their busy schedules to chat with HerStory on cricket, inspirations, biryani and Ravindra Jadeja!
This year, the gentleman’s game evolved into a completely different ball game on the world stage. The regulars were there: packed stadiums, lush green pitches, far-flung sixes, stunning catches and cheering audiences. But the players were all women.
The ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2017 showed the world that women cricketers are on par with men. The icing on the cake? The Women in Blue who fought their way into the finals and won the heart of millions in this cricket-crazy nation.
Women cricketers, who have long languished in the shadows of their male counterparts, are finally enjoying their day in the sun.
HerStory recently chatted with two members of the women’s cricket team - the uber-cool Veda Krishnamurthy, a right-handed batswoman who bowls right-arm legbreak, and the always-smiling Rajeshwari Gayakwad, a right-handed batswoman who bowls slow left-arm orthodox.
From gully cricket to Lord’s
Both Veda and Rajeshwari, who made a mark in this World Cup, come from small towns in Karnataka. Veda was born in Chikkamagaluru while Rajeshwari, who took five wickets against New Zealand in the World Cup series, has been honoured with the sobriquet “Queen of Bijapur”.
Veda, a tomboy, has played a lot of gully cricket. She says with pride,
I was not a liability, I was an asset. So, the boys would fight to have me in their team.
A karate champ, 24-year-old Veda calls cricket a lazy game. She compares karate with cricket, saying, “I was into karate, which was a more high-intensity sport than cricket. One three-hour innings takes as much effort as fighting in karate for two to three minutes. However, I would say cricket is a high-pressure game as we play for six hours and need good stamina. But once you start having fun on the field, the pressure subsides.”
Rajeshwari joined professional cricket at a young age, and honed her skills playing with siblings. An athlete in her school days, she participated in different sports. One day, she saw women playing cricket on television and was hooked.
Rajeshwari, 26, recalls, “My father took me and my sister to the women's club which had recently opened. That is how my career in cricket began.”
To a query on who inspired them to get into cricket, Veda says, “I cannot say that one person inspired me. I like to watch different cricketers and inculcate positive aspects of their technique into my style, especially in fielding. I have been following Mithali from a very young age and have been fortunate to have been playing alongside her in the national team and the same domestic team (Railways). I have learnt a lot from her. But when you play professionally, it’s not about one person; you can learn a lot from everyone.”
Veda answers on behalf of Rajeshwari with a laugh,
Rajeshwari is inspired by her favourite player -Ravindra Jadeja!
Rajeshwari is yet to meet her role model, though.
The underdogs who stormed into the final
The World Cup has been on the Indian team’s mind for the last two years. The girls were in South Africa when the team for the World Cup was announced. Though they were already a part of the national team, they were extremely excited to have made the cut.
It was the first World Cup for Veda and Rajeshwari. They trained very hard and it showed in their performance.
The credit for the success in the Women’s Cricket World Cup 2017 goes to each and every member of the team. The whole team came together and supported each other. I did not play until the sixth match; it was only in the seventh match against New Zealand that I got a chance and that was my best performance till this day.
Veda adds, “I am glad that CII has been felicitating women cricketers who participate in the ICC Women’s World Cup all over the country. One thing that drove us all was what our coach told us - that to win the World Cup we had to perform as a team. Those words remain deeply ingrained in us.”
The girls also share a few anecdotes about their team mates. Veda loves to prank Jhulan (Goswami), but she is very sporting and never gets upset. On the other hand, Harry (Harmanpreet Kaur) has a reputation of being hot-tempered among those who do not know her well but it's “actually her competitive spirit coming forth”. Harry takes even warmup games very seriously, they say.
Skipper Mithali Raj is very calm. Veda says, “She has a straight face whether the team is winning or losing, and never shows extreme emotions on the field – be it excitement or disappointment. We don’t have to look outside for role models; Mithali is an amazing role model. If we need any advice, she’s always there. Off the field, she is completely different; she’s fun-loving and adventurous.”
Life after the World Cup
Veda and Rajeshwari are aware that viewership for this year's Women's World Cup was huge in India and life is not going to be same for players. The tournament was a revolution not only for India, but for women's cricket around the globe. South Africa made it to the semifinals - nobody saw that coming – and the twists and turns in the tournament made women’s cricket popular in many countries.
Now, people are ready to watch us. Credit also goes to the media. Our games and even events attended by us are covered by media now.
Sachin Tendulkar and all the male cricketers had tweeted about the women’s team’s remarkable performance. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also tweeted their support.
Veda says, “It feels good. It’s the beginning for women cricket.”
Many 7 and 8-year-old girls are playing cricket now. Hyderabad’s St John’s Cricket Academy has numerous girls who want to pursue cricket as a career.
Life other than cricket
As we prod them about interests other than cricket, Veda and Rajeshwari come across as two fun-loving girls. Both of them love Indian food. Veda says she loves biryani so much, she can eat it for breakfast! Rajeshwari loves home-cooked food, especially jowar roti, a dish from north Karnataka.
Both don’t like the idea of dressing up. When Veda’s best friend got married a couple of weeks back, she didn’t want to dress up since she feels “uncomfortable”. But both cricketers love exploring new places. Veda says,
When we are on tour, I make it a point to step out of the hotel and explore the place on off days.
The girls recall having heard a lot of stories about ex-cricketers facing discrimination, how they used to pay from their pocket for the sheer passion of the game, and how some slept in railway station waiting rooms while travelling. Things changed after BCCI took over and the facilities are now on par with men.
Family support matters the most
Both Veda and Rajeshwari were lucky to have the full support of their parents.
Rajeshwari says, “When I started playing cricket, my relatives did question my father why he was letting his girls play cricket. But my father was very supportive and let us do what we wanted to do. It’s because of my father that I could play at the international level. My elder sister plays hockey and my younger sister plays cricket with me.”
There is a lot of stress in the game. So support and peace at home plays a vital role. Having your family by your side makes it easy.
The girls also explain how the genetic makeup of an Indian woman differs from Caucasian women. “Indian women tend to have slighter frames and we cannot control this. However, many of our team members are short and slim and still play amazing cricket. For instance, Poonam Raut who is just over five feet tall, is the fittest in the team and can easily compete with much heftier women,” Rajeshwari says.
Veda signs off with,
It is not how we look; it’s what we do!
You go, girls!
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