Hyderabad’s Arundhati Reddy was not entirely surprised when she got the call telling her she would be representing the country in the women’s T-20 international to be held on September 19 in Sri Lanka. “I was kind of expecting the call,” the 21-year-old says. “I have been playing well and I will be able to share the dressing room once again with Mithali di.”
This call was a big victory for the cricketer to first set foot on the cricket pitch when she was barely 12 years old. However, she is slightly disappointed that her cricket icon Jhulan Goswami announced her retirement from T-20 internationals, the same day Arundhati was selected to play in the team.
“Jhulan di is also a fast bowler like me. I have always been in awe of her game, but I am disappointed that I will not be able to play with her for my first international match,” she says.
Her pillar of strength
Mentored by the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA), the player says Nooshin Al Khadeer, the coach for the Indian Railways team, and Savita Nirala, head coach, HCA, were instrumental in shaping her career.
But for Arundathi, her family has been her biggest support system. “I started playing at the age of 12. I first picked up the bat to play with my brother, and seeing my interest in the game, my parents pushed me to pursue it. My mother was a volleyball player, but could not play due to financial reasons.”
Arundhati with her family.
She adds that her mother never pushed her to study more, knowing that her focus was on her cricket career. “I was very good at my studies, but after I started playing professionally, my marks slipped. But not once did my mother push me to score better than other students. She has been very supportive.”
“She used to wake up at 4 am and take me to the ground. Then she’d come back home to cook and would drop me to school. In the evening, she would drop me off at practice and stay till I finished. It would be 9 pm by the time we got home. But she always believed in my dreams,” Arundhati adds.
The mentor in Mithali
This T-20 match won’t be the first time Arundhati will be sharing the dressing room with Mithali Raj. They played together for the South Central Railways and have teamed up for a number of matches.
“Mithali di is my mentor. She has always been very supportive whenever I bowled to her in the nets. She keeps advising me on how to improve with each match. It sort of settles my nerves when I share the dressing room with her,” says Arundhati.
Last year, Arundhati got a job with the Central Railways and she says it has boosted her confidence.
“To get an opportunity to play for the country is a rare honour and it means a lot to me. This is what we dream of when we start playing. I always believed I am going to play for the country one day,” Arundhati says.
She adds that she isn’t feeling too pressured to play her first international fixture. “I only want to make the most out of the opportunity. My goal now is to give my best and be selected to the ODI squad,” she shares.
No sweets and junk
Being a fast bowler, fitness is key, and the Hyderabadi all-rounder is constantly working towards being fitter.
Arundhati with teammates and friends.
“I love eating chocolates and junk food. But for the past two years, I have been particular about what I eat and I regularly hit the gym,” she says. “Even though I am not a morning person, practice sessions and workouts have made me an early riser.”
The women’s cricket team
The women’s cricket team in India has never received the kind of warmth that the men’s team has boasted of. From only receiving half the salaries to limited fanfare, Indian women cricketers are never treated at par with their male counterparts.
“Things are now changing for the better. The women’s team is getting recognised and a lot of women now want to play cricket. What needs to be changed is the way society perceives the game, especially when women play it. Instead of jeering and ridiculing us, women should be allowed to pursue the arena where their interest lies,” Arundhati says.
While cricket associations are making tremendous efforts at training and coaching new players, the player says that the root problem lies at identifying talent.
“Cricket associations should select players from the grass-roots level, so that diversity is maintained and also every player gets a fair opportunity. But, definitely, it is a good start and things are changing for better,” the player signs off.