As women’s cricket in Vizag looks poised to take a giant leap towards glory, Teja Kovvali gives you an insight into the present set-up.
The finale of the Women’s T20 World Cup between Australia and India, played at Melbourne last year, had a turnout of 86,174-the highest ever recorded for a women’s cricket match. While the likes of Alyssa Healy, Meg Lanning, Smriti Mandhana, and Harmanpreet Kaur were the usual suspects likely to glitz up the stage, the buzz was majorly about a 16-year-young dynamite from Rohtak, Haryana. Shafali Verma, the youngest to play women’s T20 international cricket for India, had taken the tournament by storm, courtesy of a couple of whirlwind knocks. Catching the eye with her blistering strokeplay, the promising talent was deemed as the key to India’s hopes in the competition.
While the results in the final didn’t quite turn out along expected lines for the women in blue, the impact they had created was not to be razed over anytime soon. And the fact that a teen’s extraordinary skill almost commanded attention at the centre of the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground), on the big night, is an indicator of the direction in which women’s cricket in India is headed. Moving along similar lines is Vizag and its set-up of women’s cricket.
Vizag holds an esteemed place in the annals of women’s cricket. The likes of Savita Kumari and Sneha Deepthi are among the names that pop up whenever there’s a discussion on the city of destiny and its tryst with the much-admired sport. Promising to carry the legacy forward, the present set-up has quite a few exciting prospects in store.
An early morning sight at the nets adjacent to the ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium in Vizag would have an energetic bunch of girls diligently practising the sport under the able guidance of a couple of coaches. The zest to do well is almost palpable.
D Kalyani, who is one of the main coaches of the women’s cricket team in Vizag, shares that awareness about the sport has risen manifold in the recent past. From a stage where women were invited to take part in a cricket match to the present scenario, where young girls, and their parents, can be seen waiting for the net sessions to begin early in the morning, women’s cricket in Vizag has certainly made some major strides over the years.
Kalyani, who represented Andhra Pradesh at Ranji Trophy, credits the Visakhapatnam District Cricket Association (VDCA) for the development. “When I first took to the sport in 2006, there wasn’t much awareness of how to develop it professionally. However, once BCCI entered the fray, the responsibility of women’s cricket in Vizag was taken up by VDCA. Since then, the Association has revamped the set-up by upgrading the infrastructure in place and encouraging upcoming talents in multiple ways. A few years ago, there was also an incentive structure in place, to reward players as per the level of cricket played, to help them attain financial independence,” she shares.
The former batting all-rounder also tells us that there has been a tremendous increase in the exposure that players get nowadays. “Earlier, girls used to be matched up against boys for a few games to enhance the skill levels. But now, the scope to improve independently is aplenty. From availing top-notch training facilities to travelling across the country to play various tournaments, the girl squad of today enjoys great opportunities; probably the best so far. Also, the striking success of the Indian women’s cricket team has inspired a big lot,” Kalyani says.
At the coaching camp in Vizag, girls as young as 7 years can be spotted trying to improve their shots, under the watchful eyes of the coach. As we move through the ranks, girls from different age groups seem determined to leap towards the national side. A step close to the golden dream are M Durga and Pushpa Latha, both having played the India challenger series. Kalyani and Co have huge hopes pinned on the duo and are confident of them making it to the Indian team.
On the flip side though, she is worried about the trend of upcoming players shifting base to neighbouring states for better opportunities. “Of late, I’ve seen quite a few talented girls move to other states in hope of finding a place in the local squads there. In a sport like a cricket, it is imperative to be patient for chances. While getting frustrated for not being selected is understandable, giving up immediately and leaving the home state is not the solution.”
Kalyani also bats for the provision of a railway division for girls from the East Coast. Stating that other divisions have the luxury of the same, the coach opines a railway team would prove to be a shot in the arm for young girls here.
While the path ahead for the women’s cricket team in Vizag is surely not a short one, the initial steps towards the goal seem to be landing in the right places. And akin to the interests and Kalyani and a million cricket lovers from the city, we hope our girls realise their dream and perform at the highest level with aplomb.