When Smriti Mandhana handed Minnu Mani her debut India cap on July 9 during the first WT20I against Bangladesh, the latter became the first women's cricketer from Kerala to represent the country.
The journey from Wayanad to the Indian team hasn't been an easy one for her. Coming from a moderate family has its own set of challenges and being a tribal makes it even harder.
Despite all the hardships, Minnu's love for the game never stopped. A month later after her debut, she feels all the hard work has finally paid off.
The 24-year-old said on the sidelines of the Delhi Capitals' (DC) camp:
“I practised cricket and carried out my studies in Kerala Cricket Association’s Cricket Academy from 9th grade until my graduation. But, after graduation, I had to cover a long distance to reach my training ground from my home."
"I was travelling three hours a day. and my family found it difficult to provide for my travel requirements as well. However, all the hard work has paid off now," she added.
As the feeling of wearing the India jersey settles down slowly, Minnu Mani hopes that her journey will inspire many more girls in Kerala to follow in her footsteps.
“My India debut will certainly inspire many girls in Kerala. I dreamt of becoming the first woman from Kerala to represent India and that dream has come true," she continued.
"Didn’t expect to play all matches in the T20I series" - Minnu Mani on Bangladesh tour
Minnu Mani, who is currently part of the Delhi Capitals' camp headed by Sourav Ganguly, revealed that she didn't expect all three games against Bangladesh.
“I didn’t expect to play all matches in the T20I series. I couldn’t believe it when I was named in the eleven for the first game of the series. I was so excited to get the opportunity and it was great to receive my India cap from Smriti Mandhana," she said.
However, the beginning wasn't that great. Introduced inside the powerplay, Minnu was hit for a six and a boundary in her second and third delivery, respectively. But a word of advice from skipper Harmanpreet Kaur calmed her nerves. She struck immediately in the next delivery to dismiss Shamima Sultana.
“I was slightly nervous when I started bowling. I got hit for a six and a four, and then Harmanpreet shared some thoughts with me. I felt comfortable on the field after the two hits (laughs)," she continued.
Minnu Mani returned with five wickets from three matches in that series and finished as the second-highest wicket-taker, which India won 2-1.
She will next be seen in action in the upcoming Asian Games 2023 next month.