Mehak Kesar who not only plays cricket but also has her hands on Table Tennis, always realised the importance of living a balanced life. The philosophical traveller saw various highs and as many lows in her career but always had the faith in the fact that she can. When she was pulled out of the team, but by destiny or luck, was called back again owing to another’s injury and performed - it was a restart for her and she made the most of the same. Some see lack of economic support, some see lack of family support, but she saw shoulder displacements but chose to never give up. From Haryana to Jalandhar onto Mumbai for Rehab and presently in Dharamshala - let’s take a roller coaster ride!
How did your love for the sport blossom?
My relation with the 22 yard circle began when I started playing Gully Cricket back in Haryana. I have been a person who has always wanted to keep a balance between Academics and Co-curriculars. Thus, I played the game only to relieve myself of stress and the work load that every child lives with. I played cricket only because of the sake of love that I had for the game. It was what I chose to do during leisure. I enjoyed myself when I played the sport because I never played with an aim in mind - the aim to become a cricketer. I chose to go with the flow and seize what I have in store.
Often, we want to live a balanced life. However, life, sometimes, in turn puts us in a situation where we need to make a tough choice. And Mehak also had to go through it.
When did you decide that “This Was It”?
I was someone who always gave a lot of importance to academics. I always knew its degree of essentiality and thus, never compromised on the same. My parents, even though, supported my choices in all that I did and still do, were also of the view that academics is to be given number 1 priority. Since I always lived a balanced life, where I was interested in both studies and sports, life put me in a situation where I had to choose between the two. I was in class eleven about 17 years of age, when I chose to pursue the latter - and that’s how my relation with the ball started to grow.
When you have to make a choice between two things you hold as having equal importance in life - you always have to give in your 100% because you know you have to work towards it, as if you have no back up. And this is what we see where Kesar is concerned.
Each journey has its own challenges, its own difficulties. What were they where you are concerned?
To pursue what I love, I had to move from Haryana to Jalandhar. And at present day, I’m in Dharamshala. Even though I love travelling and I cannot stay in one place for long, I often miss the fact that I cannot stay with my family. I miss the home cooked food. This journey has been one where I have embraced the struggles. I have had shoulder displacements. Being a spinner and even otherwise, it’s an injury which no one takes for granted. Also, I have always had a body that was never so athletic and thus, I had to work harder than most of my other teammates. However, it’s the highs and the lows that make for the end product and thus, I cherish both.
In this journey of yours, what do you hold as the biggest positive? The motivator?
I’m extremely blessed and grateful that I always had the support of my family. My parents were and still are, my pillars of strength. They’ve always supported my decisions and have encouraged me in whatever I do, may it be studies or sports. All my friends back in Haryana, those part of my society, my relatives, had all been extremely supportive and in favour of me pursuing cricket. When I moved to Jalandhar, I got more exposure. I was under the guidance of coaches who came and told me that they have faith in my abilities and that I can do much better than what I was doing. They not only made me believe that I’m capable but also made sure that I only get better by the day. That exposure and that building of confidence is what I hold sacred.
Most of us have belief in our capabilities. All of us are aware of our talents. However, there happens to be someone in particular who recognises the same. A person who appreciates the same. Someone who gives shape to the talent and plays a key role in moulding the same.
So, whom do you owe this recognition to? The recognition of your talent?
I moved from Haryana to Jalandhar because I knew that the Punjab Cricket Association would be giving me the exposure that probably Haryana would not be able to. From better coaches to better opportunities, Punjab I thought would be a better option for me to go for, to secure a brighter future. It was in Jalandhar that my talent was recognised by two coaches. The constant push that I got from them about how I can do much more and that I’m still not at my best - I owe it to them.
For Mehak, “bowling is like meditation”. She breathes it, she lives it. She looks to better it.
Tell us something about the elements that play a role in improving your game?
In women’s cricket, most only look to get it right somehow. If it’s pitching right, not much of an effort is given to delve deeper into shaping the ability to spin the ball which is on the contrary where men’s cricket is concerned. And thus, because bowling is like meditation, I always choose to better it. I depend on myself than on anyone else. I see clippings of Harbhajan Singh and Shane Warne spinning the ball. I pay close attention to the movements of their arms and that is how I look to improve my game along with training and coaching.
We always see a difference between men’s cricket and women’s cricket. Even though women started playing the sport earlier than the men, men’s cricket, in present day, has without a doubt outstayed women’s cricket even though both put in their best foot forward when on the field. So let’s look forward to what Mehak thinks of the same.
Where do you think women’s cricket is lacking where their male counterparts are concerned?
I feel it’s all about exposure. Even though women’s cricket is, at present, getting exposure, it had been lacking earlier. Men had been encouraged towards the sport more than women were. Where women were asked to only bowl the right line, the men were taught how to spin the ball in the best way possible. However, today, we see that women’s cricket is also been given exposure and is encouraged. With time, hopefully, we will see it get only better.
Your take on the initiatives taken by the BCCI where women’s cricket is concerned?
There have been some amazing initiatives taken up by BCCI for women. More and more aspirers are encouraged to pursue the same. The number of opportunities given to each player has been increased which gives them more time and an assured chance to showcase their talent. The number of tournaments that are organised have increased in number which gives different people coming from different places a chance to show what they have in store.
Each player has to follow a specific diet and training schedule even when off the field. It’s essential for them to stay fit as they never know when they can get a call up.
How do you manage your diet and training schedule on and off the field?
I like to keep it simple. I don’t avoid anything but I make sure I take in what’s more nutritious. When we are playing a tournament, we go to the gym. However, off the field, I think each one can take out about 40 minutes to atleast jog if nothing else. I personally feel bloated and often fall ill if I don’t train on a regular basis. It has a significant impact on the body. Thus, even when I’m off the field I make sure that I jog for atleast an hour regularly.
What is your ultimate dream? What would your jersey number number be?
Each one dreams to wear that blue jersey. Each one dreams to play for their country. Each one dreams to be among those eleven on the field. And it’s no different for me. I would like to have the number “11” on my jersey. It’s my parents anniversary and I’m extremely grateful to have their support. I’m very philosophical and thus, I always believe in the concept of “eleven-eleven (11:11). I have a soft corner for the number.
Each one dreams to play against a particular team and a specific player. Let’s see who’s it for Mehak Kesar?
I would like to play my debut game against Australia and it’s my dream to bowl to Meg Lanning.
A player you look upto?
I feel each individual has something special, something that’s unique. You learn something from each one. I don’t look upto anyone in particular, rather, concentrate on learning from everyone that I meet.
Each one of us have a Plan B in life. We always play it safe and thus, always keep something that we can turn to if Plan A doesn’t work!
What would you turn to if it had not been cricket?
I am very philosophical. I love reading and I make sure I have a book with me even when I’m away. I write poetry. I meditate which always keeps me positive. It motivates me to take everything, every situation in a sporting manner. So, if not cricket, it would definitely be something related to writing or spirituality that I would’ve turned to.
Social media and the very in controversies have an impact on players. What is your take on the same?
I feel, at present, I’m not that renowned. Most don’t even know of us or me in particular. But I feel, like the legends tend to concentrate more on their game and ignore social media - it’s the best way to not let it affect oneself. Also, most of them I feel are so engaged in their own commitments that they often don’t get the time to scroll through the media.
What are your thoughts on the ongoing Women’s IPL discussion?
I feel it’s the right time to bring it on. It won’t only give opportunities to so many aspiring youngsters but also enable them to learn so much more. Each one will not only get a chance to showcase their talent but will also enjoy the opportunity to share the bench with the legends coming from both in and out of India. To get to know about their experience is in itself a big learning. It would enable the nation to come up with new names and so many new opportunities.
A few words for the rising stars?
Keep it simple. Do what you think is right. Have the faith and the belief in yourself and stick to your basics.
A few words for Female Cricket?
All that I would like to say is keep doing such work where encouragement to the younger generation is given. Keep bringing the not so known into the limelight. And keep motivating people to chase their dreams!
Rapid Fire :
Mithali Raj or Meg Lanning : Meg Lanning
Favourite Movie : Forest Gump
Your teammates call you - MK
What makes you stand out - my understanding and wise nature. I love peace and thus I get along with everyone.
Your best memory : finals against Karnataka
The most fun loving person in the team : Parveen Khan
Soon to be seen in the colours of blue, Mehak Kesar, we can say is a combination of positivity, bravery, faith and character. Through the meanders, she is surely someone whom many would look upto!