Anuradha, the captain of the German National Women's Cricket Team, is also a cardiovascular scientist. Her story is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Anuradha Doddaballapur
Features Interview Wednesday, September 08, 2021 - 11:38

From playing gully cricket in the bylanes of Bengaluru to captaining the German National Women’s Cricket Team, cricketer and cardiovascular scientist Anuradha Doddaballapur’s story is one that’s awe-inspiring. In an interview with TNM, the 34-year-old German skipper, who just returned to Frankfurt from Spain after playing the T20 World Cup Qualifiers, gets candid about her journey, her constant battle with misogyny and more.

Despite her team The Golden Eagles having won just one game amongst four in the World Cup Qualifier, Anuradha recounts the tournament as a great learning experience for the squad. “It was nice to win against France. Having defeated them in a bilateral tournament previously, we knew we were a much better squad than them. Our team has mostly professionals and students who play cricket as a hobby in their spare time. With limited funding and facilities, there's only so much one can do. But we’re going to work on our skills and go with a better mindset next time. A lot of the girls stepped up to the occasion and performed to the best of their abilities on that day,” she says.

Like most Indian kids, Anuradha’s fascination with cricket began while watching the men’s team on TV and playing gully cricket in the streets. “I was always the ‘Joker’ in the men’s team, where I never got to bat, but only bowled and fielded! I grew up with cousins who also enjoyed the game and I started to play organised cricket when I was studying at Bishop Cotton’s Girls School. I used to train at National College Basavanagudi. When I heard that they were looking for new players for the U-16 tournament in 1998, I went in for the selection and got into the team. Back then, women’s cricket was under the Women’s Cricket Association of India, not the BCCI. We’d train from 6 in the morning for three hours and then train again in the evening,” reveals the passionate cricketer, who also played for India as part of the U-19 and the senior team.

After completing her engineering, Anuradha flew to the UK to pursue her Master’s in Medical Genetics. When in Newcastle, she got a taste of classic English cricket at the club and county-level. However, it was her move to Germany in 2011 that transformed the scientist’s sporting career. “I moved to Frankfurt for my PhD. When I was looking for cricket clubs there, I found only men's teams and ended up playing with the men in their team for a while!” she recalls.

Considering Germany already had a national women’s team in place, Anuradha decided to go in for the selection and unsurprisingly, thanks to her solid foundation, made it to the squad. In 2013, she debuted for the German national team, which she’s led since 2017. “We all got together and then started the Frankfurt’s women’s team as there was no club for girls in the city. I got busy recruiting new players for it. I’m also a level 3 cricket coach and I now train new players who join us,” she adds. 

While there wasn’t much attention on German cricket until recently, Anuradha’s exploits on the field in 2020 against Austria turned that around for the country. She went viral on social media when she took four wickets in four consecutive balls against Austria and made a world record by becoming the first woman in international cricket to achieve that feat and the third after Lasith Malinga and Rashid Khan. She was then bombarded with media calls from Germany and India too. “There were many records made that day by other players, so mine just happened to be another one of them. But it was later that the German Cricket board informed me that I’d created a world record. It's always nice to be the first in anything,” she smiles.

When making Germany proud with her on-field performances, off the field too, her skills were making a mark. After graduating with a PhD in Cardiovascular Biology in 2015, Anuradha now works as a scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research.

As a woman who’s been active in sport since childhood, sexism has lurked around her, but she’s not the kind to brush it under the carpet. “The unconscious bias people have towards women in all industries, especially in sport is ridiculous. I’ve seen it even at the club level. If a record is broken, people automatically assume that it’s to do with the men’s team – men’s cricket is seen as the standard everywhere. The comparisons, the amount of promotion that's done, the condescending remarks – these are just some of the issues which exist even at the highest level. I’ve always called out such behaviour, so people think I'm a difficult person. But you've got to stand up and shut people out, especially if you're in a position where your voice makes a difference. Even when we play some international series, the way people report things on social media is very patronising and it boils my blood,” shares Anuradha, adding, “I never had a female cricketer whom I idolised when growing up, but today, girls look up to players like Smriti Mandhana, Meg Lanning or Ellyse Perry because women’s cricket now has the visibility that it didn’t previously.”

The conversation veers towards her hometown and the Bengalurean, who can’t help but break into her mother tongue Kannada, gets nostalgic about binging on food from Vidyarthi Bhavan and Upahara Darshini. “Apart from my family, I miss the food the most, especially at the roadside eateries. My house was on DVG Road and I loved watching the Gandhi Bazar market being decked up during festivals, especially during Ganesh Chathurthi.  I miss the charm of old Bangalore - the city’s now become too modern for my liking,” she signs off.

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