The real legends emerge from experience, practice, dedication and passion. They do not give up when things do not go their way, instead take up these stones and turn them into milestones. Started from gullies and now singing the national anthem looking up to the Indian flag, on the sacred grounds of cricket.
Arundhati Reddy, a young gun from Hyderabad, born on 10th April 1997. Idolizing Rahul Dravid and an aspiring wicket keeper who eventually turned out to be one of the best gems as a pace bowler of the Women in Blue in such a short time. A person who truly never gave up on her dreams and strongly believes in all that she does. The dream of a world cup germinated long back in 2007, and would be getting true in a few weeks time. It is so phenomenal to be living the ultimate dream.
In an exclusive interview with Female Cricket correspondent, Anvesha shah, Arundhati spoke about how she is truly living the dream, about her journey so far and how what she is doing today fascinates her with always wanting to get better.
Take us down the memory lane, your childhood, the initial cricketing days and how cricket happened?
I started playing with the boys in the locality, at that time I used to have short hair so everyone used to think that I am a boy because I used to dress up like that as well and eventually everyone told me that I should consider cricket seriously as I used to bowl well. So then I spoke to my mom about it and she talked to my cousin, he was a professional cricketer himself so I joined in where he used to play and then in two months the coach there sent me to the Hyderabad Cricket Association where there was a women’s summer camp.
So when I joined that, in no time they put me directly in the U19 team.
Was your family always supportive when it came to cricket and moreover playing it professionally?
Yes, definitely. I have always loved the game and so my mom she never stopped me from playing she has always been so supportive about it. And actually none of us had to force either of us because we all, my whole family loves cricket. My mom has actually supported me the most when it came to cricket.
So were you always into sports or was it just cricket that fascinated you?
I used to play a lot of sports when I was in school, but then cricket is what I love the most. And it was the only game that the boys in my locality used to play. I was always al lot into cricket, like whenever there used to be any match of India, I used to miss school and watch the games whole day long.
Is everyone in your family an ardent cricket fan or is it just you?
We all love cricket absolutely. My father was into cricket always but my mom, she started following the game once I took up. And also everyone close to me, my relatives and everyone were always crazy about cricket.
In a recent interview, Ramesh Powar sir said that you are capable enough to eventually fill in Jhulan Goswami’s shoes. What do you have to say about that?
Well, I feel nice but then I still have a long way to go, I have started just right now. The main goal is to continue doing well for the country and every time I get an opportunity, I want to go out there and make sure we win it. I am a very big fan of Jhulu di, whatever she has achieved; I am really little right now in front of her, she is such a big role model for everyone in this country.
All these years, you must have introspected your game a lot, each game and everything from the summer camps. So are there any areas you would want to work upon before the huge World Cup arrives?
Actually, nothing to change as of now. In fact, it is all about taking my game to a next level altogether. Because I have come this far with the game I have always had, so I would not really want to change anything about it. From here, I have to learn and keep improving at each moment because there is a lot of difference between international cricket and domestic cricket. So as a bowler, I have to be really smart and work on ways through which I can trouble the batsmen.
Whom do you idolize and do you think you have imbibed any traits from there, as a player or as a human being?
When I started off, I used to idolize Rahul Dravid sir. I wanted to be a wicket keeper actually. Even when I went to my coaching camp, the first thing my coach asked me to do was to bowl. He liked my bowling and then he told me that he wants me to improve as a bowler, a fast bowler. But then my head was all into keeping and I was not really interested in bowling. So after a few weeks I spoke to my coach about it and he said that if I want to do keeping then I don’t need to come and attend his camp from the next day. Otherwise, probably I would have been a wicket keeper (laughs)
Whenever I used to see him, like I have not met him but his humbleness and him being always so down to earth is what I always want to have within me. And also the way he is so modest and simple about things as a cricketer and even as a coach right now so these are a few traits I always would want to imbibe within myself.
When you got your call for the world cup, what was your first reaction?
My seriousness about the game came back in 2007, during the T20 World Cup. At that time, the games used to be during the night, so I used to stay up all night to watch the games. So when India won the world cup, I always used to think that even I want to be there and do that, that is win the cup. As a kid, I had just seen Indian winning the world cup and dreaming about being there, but now after getting this call, it is like a dream come true.
Talking about the upcoming T20 World Cup, where the best teams in the world would be competing for the title, which is that one side you are really looking forward to playing against?
Australia is one side I am really looking forward to, because I genuinely admire the way they play their cricket so I want to play against them and do well against them. They are the one in particular but then all the teams are going to be at their best and our job is to go out there in each and every game and express ourselves and win games for our country.
Fitness is the most crucial aspect when it comes to being a bowler, especially a pace bowler. So is there something you do apart from your daily routine to work on your fitness?
It has been just a couple of years since I have actually started taking fitness seriously, because earlier I just used to focus on the usual general fitness. But now I focus a lot on it as that is the only one thing I think which is going to help me improve my pace and also prevent injuries. I have even left having junk or street food now, earlier I used to eat literally anything but since the past couple of years, I have actually started giving importance to my diet. I do have my cheat days though. I can have sweets for like every single meal, but I have left that too.
Everything that a person wants to do, can only be done effectively when their heart and soul lies in that. You always wanted to do wicket keeping, but when your coach did not allow that, how did you train your mind for something you were not interested in initially?
When I started bowling, everyone around me believed that I am good and that I had the ability to play for the country and that is when I considered bowling seriously. During my U19 days, everyone told me that I am very talented and that I can play for the country someday, so I actually realized that maybe this is the area I am really good at. And then there were I think four wicket keepers who were fighting for their place in the team. So I thought Chalo good, I am not doing it (Laughs). Because as a fast bowler, I got into the team right away. So after that, the interest just kept increasing.
If today your captain walks up to you and says that the team needs you to keep the wickets, would you be ready to do that or would focus on the bowling?
If I have to bowl, I have to bowl. That is my job but if someday anyone offers me keeping, I will do it! Although, wicket keeping has gone now, it is just bowling right now that I want to focus on.
Nothing comes easy when one has to reach such great levels and do something so huge like playing for one’s country. Tell us something about the difficult times that have written your story?
Well, there has not really been any struggle for me. Actually, my mom had to go through a lot for me to get where I am today. She has seen more struggle than I have for my dreams to be accomplished, and she has never let anything affect me no matter what she at her personal level had to go through. There were many things that were making continuation of my cricket difficult, but she has dealt with everything and made sure things come really smooth to me.
In a recent interview, you spoke about watching Jasprit Bumrah’s videos and learning from them. So how have things worked out for you after watching his bowling videos?
He is currently the best T20 bowler in the world especially in the death overs. So I just observe and learn how he constructs his overs and executes each delivery of his. The way he reads the batsman’s mind and executes his bowling whether with the new ball or at the death, is simply exceptional. In a recent interview he also said that to be a good bowler one needs to assess the situations, understand the batsman’s mind and also stay in control. That is how one’s bowling will be effective. Control and practice are the keys to success for a bowler. And after watching him carefully, his Yorkers and surprise slow balls are the ones I really want to work on.
Are there any other players whom you look up to?
Yes, I really like Mitchell Starc a lot. Currently Starc and Bumrah are the two worlds best and I really look up to them and also they are loved worldwide for their performances.
Tell us about your favorite cricket memory so far?
The most favorite one so far is when I got the cap from Mithali Di, I just could not believe that it was actually happening; I just went numb when that happened. Who is saying what, what is happening around. I have been playing with her since I was a child and getting the cap from her was like a dream come true.
Looking at the scenario around 10-15 years back, women’s cricket was not established as such. But today, it is getting the ever deserved attention and appreciation. As a woman cricketer, how do you feel?
Actually, it is great. I think the World Cups have actually boosted women’s cricket. The girls have always been playing so well and their performances over the years and in the world cups have been phenomenal. So gradually, the spectators also started to take interest and appreciate them. And after BCCI started the contract system, it even proved as a self security as now the parents and these players know that there is a secured future in cricket and that it no longer is just a side career. Now even the parents support their kids and are ready to accept cricket as a career, because it is backed by a contract and that they know that cricket as a profession has great scope now.
What has been your ultimate motivation mantra or motivator?
The ultimate motivation for me has always been myself. I have always been so crazy about cricket and about representing my country. I always wanted to play cricket. And the dream of playing for India and one day being there on the field has been the ultimate motivation for me. Now that I am here, I want to continue having more aims and ambitions and doing better and better for my country.
Let us take a sneak peek into your cheat days, what do you absolutely love and how often do you have your cheat days?
Literally anything sweet! Anything at all would do that is sweet. I just love it and I have my cheat days once in three weeks or so. I don’t really count, but whenever I feel that okay I have been working really hard and need this little treat for myself I have it.
Is there something in the team environment that needs to be changed?
No, not really. Right now the team unity is absolutely great and every single player is giving their best and putting their hearts and souls into the game. Recently, we had a great series with Sri Lanka where we were absolutely phenomenal and we are really high on confidence. There are no things to be changed, but from here on we just have to keep growing because cricket just gets more competitive.
When you debuted for India, were there any just for fun ragging incidents?
No (Laughs), since day one everyone was just so friendly and accepting. Everyone was very sweet Harry di (Harmanpreet Kaur), mithali di, all the seniors were really sweet. They came to me, sat and talked to me so that I feel comfortable and there was always that foundation with the whole team, we all got along so well.
Cricket has always been your greatest passion but besides that what else interests you?
Well, I sing. I have not learnt it professionally but that is something I love doing, rest I watch TV and stuff and watching movies.
What do you use or do as a stress buster?
I have this karaoke which I use and I sing along when I am alone in my room to relieve my stress and I want to make sure that I distract myself when I am getting stressed over something so I just watch some movie or the show I have been following.
What if cricket had not happened? What would have been your other profession?
I really don’t know! I have never really thought about it and I think I am not good at anything (Laughs) but yes maybe singing. I was never into anything else but cricket. Not even studies, I was a good student but it never really interested me.
What do you think the board or women’s cricket as a whole can do in order to promote women’s cricket more?
The board is already working on effective methods and has been doing a lot for us. People are certainly taking more interest in women’s cricket than ever before. It lies on the team itself as well, because the better you perform, the more appreciation you are going to get. So we as a unit just want to keep working hard, if a team does well, automatically they will be promoted.
There are two phases in cricket, namely the international phase and the domestic phase. What kind of a role does domestic cricket play in the life of every single cricketer?
Domestic cricket is very important. When you are playing domestic cricket, you need to make sure that you are the best and that you stand out from the rest in order to make it to the national side. Once you do well in domestic cricket, you will have the confidence to do well in international cricket as well. The Indian team has been always so good at the domestic level and that is one of the biggest reasons for its success. This is the very base. This is the stage where you are making yourself and gaining confidence.
The coming world cup will be coming as a boost in Indian cricket as well as women’s cricket as a whole. How do you think it will help you at a personal level?
Well, be it the world cup or any matches, the goal will always be to be at my best for the team. To go out there and express myself and be beneficial for the team. Because the team’s growth is the only goal, I am not even thinking about anything else, it is just about doing what you can and what you should for your team and your country.
Being a fast bowler, what would a dream match be like?
In the T20 format, it would always about getting the five wicket haul. But then again, it would be the best just because it is going to help the team ultimately.
A few words for our aspiring cricketers?
There will be times when you would doubt yourself till the time you do not get there but that is the time when you have to believe in yourself, stay confident and believe in your dreams. So actually, you should never ever give up on your dreams. Because if you believe, one day surely you are going to be where you want to be. Just always follow your heart and put in your everything to achieve that.
Team Female cricket wishes the Indian Cricket Team and all the other teams for the upcoming T20 World Cup.
The 22 Yard stretch that molded me, is what I hold sacred. A cricketer weaving life’s innings into words. A Rohit Sharma Admirer always. I believe writing and cricket aren’t passions, but ways of life, so truly living the dream!