My mother encouraged me to play 'boys' sports, says Veda Krishnamurthy
- An exclusive interview with Veda Krishnamurthy.
I was reading a story the other day about a little girl who visited the Nike store with her father. Interested in buying the Team India jersey, she was keen on having a name printed at the back of the jersey. While the officials at the store were about to recommend Kohli and Dhoni as they are the two most popular names, she gently asked them to print out the name “Mandhana” on the back.
She left everyone stunned. It was the first time anybody had asked for a woman cricketer’s name to be printed on the back of the jersey. This is the power of women’s cricket.
Ever since the ICC Women’s World Cup began on June 24, the Women in Blue have been creating waves with their inspired performances on the field.
With five wins out of seven in the group stages, the Indian eves qualified for the semi-finals of the World Cup after a gap of seven years.
However, they were in danger of getting knocked out after a slump against the big guns – South Africa and Australia. Facing a do-or-die encounter against New Zealand, critics began to question whether they could hold their nerve in such a situation.
However, Mithali Raj and her troops were completely unfazed by the situation and produced a masterclass against the White Ferns.
She led India’s attack with a spectacular century – her first of the tournament. While Mithali’s knock was the guiding factor, it was another innings which turned the match in India’s favour. Coming in to bat in the 37th over of the innings, 24-year-old Veda Krishnamurthy decimated the opposition bowlers.
Having not made a name for herself prior to the match, she had the entire crowd chanting her name in unison once she was done.
She took the game away from them with a blitzkrieg innings of 70 in just 45 deliveries which included seven fours and two sixes, helping India post a stiff target of 265 in 50 overs which they were able to defend with ease.
“Before I went in to bat, both Harry (Harmanpreet Kaur) and Mithu (Mithali Raj) had played really well. They had set the foundation for me to go and play my strokes. So, I just played a couple of balls and I knew it was a very good wicket to bat on. Hence, I backed my ability to get quick runs," said Veda in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda.
With her knock against New Zealand coming at no. 6, she seems to be the perfect finisher for the side. With her ability to take the game away from the opposition and clear the boundary with ease, Veda seems to be enjoying the role given to her.
“Right now, you could call my role as a finisher and I am enjoying it. The batsmen who are going before me are really good and everything is quite settled now. In the future, if given the chance to play up the order, I’ll probably think about it then but right now, I'm enjoying what role is given to me,” she said.
Veda shared a 112 run partnership with Mithali Raj, the latter playing second fiddle and giving as much strike to Veda as possible. The Indian captain was seen talking to Veda time and again and advising her on what to do.
With most of the members of the women’s cricket team under the age of 30, it is extremely important to have someone who can guide the youngsters in the right direction and take them to greater heights in their career. In the form of Mithali Raj, the Indian eves could not have asked for a better leader.
Cool as a cucumber, one cannot help but compare her with MS Dhoni, who is probably the epitome of calmness. Reading a book, or using a skipping rope just before going in to bat, Mithali has handled pressure with utmost ease and garnered a lot of fans around the world.
Veda, who has played with Mithali for a long time now heaped praise on her captain. She feels extremely fortunate to play with her role model at the other end of the crease.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have played alongside Mithu for the past seven years now. We play for the same domestic side so, it’s just that I’ve batted a lot with her both domestic and international stage and it just gives you so much confidence when she’s at the other end,” said Veda as she praised her captain.
“She keeps telling you what you have to do. If you’ve got runs, whether to look for singles or go big – whatever it is, she’s there to guide you. Batting with her and being with her keeps you at peace. So, we listen to her and we go with whatever plan she comes up with,” she continued.
Bouncing back from the odds and support from the family
Veda was left out of the playing XI for the first three matches of the World Cup and played her first match against Sri Lanka. She failed to perform against South Africa and Australia but made up for it with her masterclass against New Zealand.
Despite being just 24 years old, she made her debut six years ago and scored a half century in her maiden innings, against England.
After a few noteworthy performances, she went through a slump. With scores of 6, 5, 7 and 9 against England in 2012, she was dropped from the team.
However, she did not let that bother her. Over the next few years, she took the hard route, playing a lot of domestic cricket and finding herself donning the Indian jersey once again in 2015.
Back in the squad, Veda reveals what shifted her career in the right direction and how she was able to overcome the slump.
“Everything is about the mental aspect. You have to believe in yourself mentally. When I started off, I was really young. My first couple of series were really good and it just got into my head and I performed poorly. From there, I did not know what to do to make a comeback when I played for Railways.”
“After that, I played for many different teams and learnt things the hard way. So, that’s what helped me. Playing for different teams and not playing for my home team Karnataka helped me to grow as a player because once you go out of your comfort zone and try different things, you tend to learn a lot.”
For any youngster looking to make it big one day, they tend to look up to a certain player growing up. Watching and playing a lot of cricket going up, Veda learnt a lot from different cricketers by just watching the game.
“When I started watching cricket, I didn’t have any role model as such. I always like Kevin Pietersen and Michael Clarke because of the way they played cricket,” said Veda about whom she enjoyed watching the most.
“Once I started playing cricket and once I started watching Mithali play, I learnt a lot by just watching her play. So, you could say that when I was a kid, my role model was Mithali Raj. When it comes to men’s cricket, I’ve not had anybody as a role model because there are so many different things you can learn from men cricketers so I tend to learn from mostly everyone,” she said.
Growing up in a country like India, there still continues to exist a social stigma about sending one’s daughter out to play a sport for the country. Despite women achieving a lot of success for the country in different sports, there are many others whose dreams are not realised because of the society we live in.
Luckily for Veda, that was not the case. She had her parents’ support right throughout her childhood. The youngest daughter of a cable operator, her father decided to shift from a small town in Karnataka’s Chikmagalur to Bangalore to realise her daughter’s dream of playing for the country one day.
“My parents have been the best from the time I started playing cricket. I was involved in a lot of sports before I started playing cricket professionally. In fact, my parents have brought me up like a boy. I have a brother and two sisters all who are elder to me, so I was like a second son to them.
"So, there has never been a situation where my parents or siblings have stopped me from playing. Since I was a kid, I was always on the streets and my mother never discouraged me from playing with boys. In fact, she encouraged me to play all the 'boys' sports.”
It is extremely pleasing to see the Indian women’s cricket team headed in the right direction. With a lot of time on her side, we could be sure to see Veda play for many more years and reach greater heights in her career.
With her performance in the match against New Zealand, she has garnered a lot of fans over the world.
As for me, I am on my way to the Nike store to get a jersey with the name “Veda” inscribed on the back.Published 20 Jul 2017, 19:36 IST