How Vellaswamy Vanitha turned a pastime into passion for the love of cricket
Watching Vellaswamy Vanitha bat is a sight of elegance. She personifies all the grace that an opener brings to the game.
I saw her batting few months back in Sydney and became a fan instantly. She was so calm in her approach and had a lot of class.
"In gully cricket, it was quite common to have girls in teams. I started like that in my locality," Vanitha told Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview. "I never thought of making a career in cricket. One fine day, my dad woke up from sleep and took me to Karnataka State Cricket Association."
Talking about how she took up the sport professionally, Vanitha detailed how her parents wanted her to focus on academics and pursue cricket as a hobby initially.
"During my younger years, I was not serious about the game. It was only when I turned 18 that I decided to turn my hobby into my career," she said.
When asked how she balanced academics and cricket, the Indian opening batswoman recalled, "My parents gave me a lot of liberty. They always wanted me to do what I wanted. But they were worried about my future when I was in high school."
"I was, however, keen on playing and had to literally beg to allow me to pursue cricket as a profession," added the 25-year-old from Bangalore.
We talk about closed minds. In India, there is the perception that women are not suited to play the game.
Vanitha's success story was no different
"I used to train with boys in my coaching camp. They used to hit the ball out of the ground sometimes and mock me saying how can a girl hit the same way," Vanitha said.
She faced a lot of gender stereotype and it was quite a challenge for her to break away from it.
"But if a boy can hit hard, why can't I?" laughed Vanitha.
The Bangalore-born opener added, "I took it as a challenge and maybe that is why I am here today."
Although, no serious comparisons can be made between men's and women's cricket, for various reasons, BCCI has indeed taken some good steps towards the improvement of women's cricket in India.
"Things have changed a lot after BCCI took over from the Women's Cricket Association of India. Now we have professional coaches, trainers, and mentors. The board takes care of everything and giving us importance. It has become a lot more professional which is a good thing," adds the right-handed opening batsman of India.
KFC Big Bash or IPL can capture the imagination of Indian fans
India plays lesser matches compared to Australia and England throughout the year. There is a separate Women’s Big Bash League but Vanitha and Co. are not allowed to take part in that tournament.
"The passion is there for the game but people need to know more about women's cricket in our country. For that, we have to take part in one or two international T20 leagues like the KFC Big Bash," she said.
Also read: Why it is time to start a women's IPL
This probably asks the question whether the women have had the support they deserve. India should take a leaf out of Big Bash and start a women's cricket league along the same lines.
She added, "If we brush shoulders with international players, it would be beneficial for women's cricket in India."
Roger Federer, Virat Kohli, and Indian fans
Vanitha, a big fan of Roger Federer, believes T20 is the way to go as more matches will bring a lot of new talents and help the game in our country.
She said, "You only have to see the standard of cricket we produced in the 2016 World Cup. Luck was not with us but you saw the skill level and commitment of our players."
"But it was a good tournament for us. We got a lot of support from our board, media, fans and played well when no one expected us to do so," she signed off.
Vanitha is not screaming for a women's IPL. She is not asking for more money from the board. She wants to play more international tournaments and improve her game.
The admirer of Virat Kohli wants to engage this cricket-crazy nation and wants us to support them more. She wants to grow the game. She wants to be a role model.
Vanitha Vellaswamy is breaking the glass ceiling. Her future is golden and this is only the first step of the ladder.