Winifred Anne Duraisingam, currently the Captain of the Malaysian Women's cricket started her journey when she was only 10. Rejected by her brother and his team, Winifred did not give up easily. She was introduced to the game by her Uncle who spotted the talent in her niece and got her enrolled in a cricket academy. Winifred started as an opening bowler but was quick to adapt batting skills, which later helped her team. She was honored with the captaincy role when she was 17 and has been an integral part since last 10 years. In a chat with Female Cricket, Winifred talks about her early days, struggles she had to face and future plans.
Excerpts from the interview:
1. It was the first time Malaysia got a chance to play against the top Asian teams like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. How was the experience captaining the team?
As a captain, it was a great opportunity for me and the Malaysia team to play against the test-playing countries like India Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It was a great learning experience. Moreover,we got a first-hand experience of watching these players player, make strategies for the tournament.
2. Results did not go in your favor. But certainly, there must have been a lot of learning from this tournament. Could you highlight some of them?
Yes that's true. But the learning me and my team had from the tour was immense. I am sure playing more frequently against the test playing nations will only improve our mindset and eventually the game.
3. Tell us about your initial cricket days. What was your childhood cricket like? What drove you to cricket?
I started playing cricket in the backyard when I was only 10. One day I saw my brother playing this sport and it was love it first sight. I too wanted to try out the bat and ball game. The next day, I mustered some courage to walk up to the boys playing cricket and expressed my desire to join them. But unfortunately, I was refused bluntly. They did not even let me hold the bat.
I remember my uncle one day came up to me and asked if I would like to learn the sport. I was delighted and quickly said yes. He started to teach my bowling initially but somehow batting looked much better. I got to know that the boys had a rule in their game - whoever gets a wicket, will get to bat first. I knew what I need to do next. I started practicing and brushing up my bowling skills and rushed to the boys. They were surprised with my action and the pace and eventually had no option than to allow me to play cricket.
At 13, I got myself enrolled with Kuala Langat Club team and started practicing there. One day, I was bowling there and an ex-Malaysian player came up to my uncle and asked him about my whereabouts. He looked very impressed with my bowling skills. My uncle introduced me to him and the person straight away called up the women's squad manager and asked them to test me.
I appeared for the selection matches at the age of 14 and was chosen to play for Malaysia National Women's Cricket team. I started my journey as an opener bowler and continue to open the spell for my team.
I fell in love with batting at the age of 15 when I went to Australia for a training camp. I also went to watch few women's game there and was stunned to see their athleticism. I saw women's hitting the ball out of park, just like men's and it motivated me to improve on my batting skills. Since then, I started working hard on my batting skills and started to bat in the middle orders.
I began my journey being a bowler, but adapted to other roles for the betterment of my team. In the year 2014, I went to Australia to play a season with a club in Adelaide and earned some overseas experience there.
In 2014, I was handed over the Captaincy role for the Malaysian women's cricket team and it has been one beautiful experience thus far.
4. Who were your cricket role model / inspiration whilst growing up?
I always admired Australian legend Brett Lee for his lethal bowling.… When I took up batting, I was looking up to Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sangakkara. Although I was a right-handed batswoman, I always adored his left-hand batting prowess.
5. Back then how did you cope up with your studies / education / other commitments along with cricket?
It has been one tough journey juggling both sports and academic. But I was able to pull it off by God's grace and of course my family's support.
6. Walk us through your malaysia cricket journey? When did you make your national debut?
I started playing for Malaysia at the age of 14 and have played 5 International T20s so far against the teams like Thailand, Indonesia, Tanzania, Hong Kong, Pakistan and India.
7. What was the general perception about women’s cricket in Malaysia when you started playing? How is it now?
It has improved a lot, I would say. From the time I started playing till today, the game has achieved huge exposure and media has played a key role in highlighting the beauty of women's cricket. I see so many young girls coming to us and showing their eagerness to play cricket, which is amazing.
8. What do you feel is still an area to work and improve on at a personal level?
At a personal level, I want to become more consistent and inspire more girls from Malaysia to participate in the sport. We need to create a new pool of cricketers.
9. Who would you credit the most for your journey so far and why?
Firstly, a lot of credit goes to my Uncle who taught me cricket in the beginning. Without his support, I wouldn't have been here. Secondly, I would like to thank my family for always supporting me in my decisions and lastly I would like to thank MALAYSIA CRICKET ASSOCIATION for giving me the opportunity to represent my country.
10. Against which team did you enjoy playing the most and why?
I really enjoyed playing against Nepal, considered to be a strong team in the Asia region. Thailand women's cricket has shown great character in the last 3-4 years and have emerged as a strong team in the Asia region. I had enjoyed every bit of playing against Thailand and Nepal.
Winifred with Harmanpreet Kaur
11. How many clubs/academies do we have in Malaysia that trains female cricketers?
Cricket isn't a primary sport here in Malaysia, so the awareness is a little low here. But after the SEA GAMES in Malaysia last year, we saw more and more girls taking up cricket professionally. Also after the Asia Cup this year, more and more girls are inspired to take up the sport. I feel, we will now have more clubs and academies in the region.
12. What are some major tournaments that Malaysia Cricket organizes / participates in?
SEA GAMES 2017 and ASIA CUP 2018 are some of the major tournaments organised by MCA.
13. Your views on Female Cricket as a platform?
Female Cricket is a one-stop platform for each and everything related to women's cricket in the world. It feels great to be a part of such a diverse community willing to promote and celebrate women's cricket. Thank you so much to you guys for the constant efforts and support.