Ravi Venkateswarlu Kalpana, the daughter of an auto driver who fought with her family to get away with early marriage, is back into the national team after three years and the Vijayawada-born wicketkeeper-batter is confident of proving herself at the international stage again. Her previous international career only lasted for 7 ODIs in which she played just 3 innings, but couldn't do much with the bat. Kalpana worked on her weaknesses, particularly batting in the nervous situation and has proved herself in the domestic tournaments earlier this year.
In an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Team FEMALE CRICKET, she takes us down her journey, the roads she walked to reach where she is today, her personal life, the person she is and the player she is!
1. What was your childhood like, your family and how cricket happened?
I played a lot of Kabbadi while growing up, later on I started playing cricket from 9th standard. Not so many had shown interest in cricket at that time, hence I took up this sport.
2. How did you deal with struggles of financial crisis ?
My parents and coaches have helped me a lot in the crisis situation. My co-player Meghana has also supported me morally in the tough times.
3. What was your family's reaction to you taking up cricket professionally?
My parents had supported me a lot from day 1. But my relatives opposed the idea of girls playing cricket. But my parents went against the society, fought hard and gave me all the required support.
4. An early marriage planned for you, how did you convince your parents and how did it impact you mentally ?
I explained my parents that I have something else planned and my vision towards pursuing women's cricket professionally. We also had received few proposals, but I simply rejected it to honour my future plan of becoming a member of Indian women's cricket team.
5. Was being keeper-batter always you, or have you played other roles as well?
I was always a wicket-keeper. I feel wicket-keeper can guide both the bowlers and fielders well as to in which areas to bowl and also look after the field placement. I have thoroughly enjoyed the wicket-keeping role.
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6. Which is that one struggle story that has made you really strong?
My dad is an auto-driver and we never had a permanent home. I have one more sister and we all had to face serious financial issues. Those days were horrible, I can't exactly remember whether I turned 18. But my parents and relatives were putting pressure on me for marriage. Actually, we all were struggling financially. That could have been a reason why my father wanted me to get married so that I could be well-off. But I was adamant and explained my coach Srinivas Reddy about the whole situation. He came and talked to my parents and convinced that I would continue playing cricket and also continue my studies.
My relatives opposed the idea of me playing cricket, but I never gave up. These conditions made me the person I am today. I am glad I did not give up.
7. How did you feel when you got the call from team india? How did your family react to it?
Moment I got to know, I started crying. These were happy tears. I was super pumped up and so were my family members. It was the day I will never forget in my entire life.
8. Which has been your most favourite cricket memory so far?
June 28th, 2015 when I first played for Indian Cricket team. It is such a surreal experience representing your country at an International level.
9. Whom have you coached under and from which academy/club?
I began my coaching under Srinivasa Reddy Sir at Andhra Cricket Association and later with Railways team.
10. What role has your coach played in your career?
My coach has helped me in raising my self confidence.
11. What is your jersey number and tell us the story behind it?
Its 23, as per numerology, which adds up to 5.
12. You are making a come back in the Indian team after quite some time, how did you deal that gap mentally?
Yes I am making a comeback after 3 years in the Indian team. I last played cricket in Feb 2016. I have worked really hard in the last 3-4 years and worked on my weaknesses and improved my wicket-keeping skills. It feels great to make a comeback in the side after a convincing domestic tour last season.
13. Maintaining fitness is really important for a sports person, tell us about your fitness schedule and diet?
Here's my daily schedule:
5.30-7.30 AM - fitness session
8.30-11.30 AM - skill session (practice)
3.30-5.30 PM - skill session (practice)
My diet is quite normal, nothing fancy, and I do include a lot of dry fruits in it.
14. What all did you work on these gap years?
Wicket-Keeping and batting.
More concentration was on my batting and how to bat specially in nervous / pressure situations.
15. Whom have you idolized?
My mother for all my personal stuff and all the women cricketers, particularly Mithali Raj for the professional.
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16. Who has been your greatest motivation over the years?
Mithali ma'am, without any doubt.
17. What according to you, is that one skill that you possess which makes you stand out of from the rest?
There are many such skills that I possess but I feel my wicket-keeping is quite good and has got me lot of positive feedbacks.
18. Women's IPL has been in the buzz, what is your take on that?
Women's IPL will raise our cricket as per international standard.
19. How do you relieve your stress and what do you do in off time?
I am quite positive personality and therefore doesn't need much to relive me stress. I do have a habit of maintaining a dairy in which I write about everything related to me and my cricket life.
20. How important do you feel is training and exercise is in cricket? Who all have trained you?
I have worked with many trainers till now. When I was in Andhra, I had the opportunity to learn so much from them. Lately, I have been trained by Vanka Murali sir who is the railways trainer. Fitness plays a big role in cricket and now that it has become such a fast paced game, staying fit throughout the year has become mandatory.
21. Making a come after few years, how have you prepared and how do you feel?
I have worked on my weaknesses, involved a lot of strength and mental conditioning. Been practicing yoga and strength-based exercises has also helped me in achieving my goal of playing for Indian cricket team.
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22. A few words for aspiring cricketers?
Cricket is beautiful game but demands a lot from you at International / Professional level. Be eager to learn and fail and never ever give up.
23. Any suggestions for female cricket or new additions that you had want to see?
You guys are doing a fabulous job. One suggestion would be to setup more cricket academies at District / Taluka level to support semi-rural / urban talented players.