Female Cricket interviews Akanksha Kohli

1. When was the first you played cricket?
I started playing cricket from the age of 4 at my Nana Nani’s (maternal – grandmother/grandfather) place in Amritsar.

2. Walk us through your initial (childhood) cricket days? Any gully cricket moment that you remember?
Gully cricket days were the best days of my life. The most memorable time was at my nana nani’s place back in Amritsar where my nana used to order new window panes before I came because he knew we would end up breaking it.

3. Any siblings? Were they equally interested in Cricket? 
I have 2 siblings but both are a total opposite of me and very intelligent. I used to bully my younger sister to give me practice when we were small. They have been a great support to me ever since I started playing professionally. 

4. Your dad has played a key role in shaping your cricket career. How do you think his guidance has impacted your cricket career?
I started learning and watching cricket only cause of him and it is through him that I imbibed it as my passion. Watching him play and watch cricket gave me the urge to take it up professionally, cause he was a die hard India fan. He used to teach me maths with the TV on when India used to play an ODI and put it on mute and we both used to watch till my mother came up to switch it off and shout at us.

After my dad it is only my mother who allowed me to continue play the sport in college and fought all odds to make sure I followed my passion. If not for her, I would have been working in some MNC for sure. She is my biggest strength and motivator. She is my hero and biggest motivation who always put our happiness before hers.

5. Who were your cricketing role model / inspiration whilst growing up?
For me it was Brett Lee, Adam Gilchrist and Rahul Dravid.

6. Your dad, being an avid cricket fan and player, were you still under pressure to score good in academics? How did you manage both your game and studies?
He was very particular that I do well in my academics because he wanted me to excel in life. It wasn’t easy but thanks to mother who wasn’t as strict as other parents and would let me play, but I was a very tough kid to handle when I was small and I luckily did well in both. I was a mediocre student, not a 90 percenter for sure. She was fed up of me changing my sport but eventually supported me when it came to cricket because I was happy.

7. How did fast bowling happen to you?
I always thought fast bowling looked very cool and had a different attitude cause they were fast and I loved being an athlete in school. It gave me a kick. I used to copy Allan Donald and Brett Lee when I started playing. I love bowling fast, and it came naturally to me.

8. Apart from cricket, you also liked tennis a lot. When and how did you develop this liking for tennis?
Tennis again I started because of my father. He said one thing to me in school that be responsible for your wins and losses and so I started playing tennis an individual sport where I did not have to blame anyone for my losses and vice versa. And I went on to play at Nationals. I played the sport for 11 years. Andy Roddick and Roger Federer were my all time favorite and I miss the sport a lot.

9. How difficult was it leaving tennis for cricket? Why did you choose cricket despite knowing the challenges and current state of Indian women cricket?
In simple words, tennis was my boyfriend and cricket my husband and I stuck to it for the sheer passion and dream to represent my India one day. I still miss tennis a lot and I still do play as a hobby when I get time. Indian women’s cricket is slowly getting there, but for me it is not the money but the love for the sport. I’m glad, slowly things are improving now.

10. Which club did you play for initially? How did you come to know about KIOC, where you have spent majority of your time playing & growing you cricket.
I have only played for KIOC all my life and nothing else. I got to know about KIOC through my Joseph’s friends. I am glad I joined it and it s the finest cricket academy in India.

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11. KIOC has been very kind to female cricketers, wanting to pursue professional game by waving off their fees. What do you have to say to them for their kind gesture?
I think its amazing and very motivating where its just cricket and you can practice all 365 days of the year at any time of the day even if its in the night. I am very fortunate to have Irfan sir and Nasir sir as my coaches who have been great in my journey and I am blessed.

12. What forced you to quit your professional job? Did you regret this decision later?
I did not want to be jack of all and master of none. If I had to play cricket professionally, I could only choose one. And I do not regret my decision because I wanted to give it my all and have no regrets tomorrow that I did not give it my all. Working in an MNC has taught me a lot and changed me as a person and changed my perspective towards a lot of things in life.

13. When not playing cricket, what does a typical day look like for you?
It would be gym in the morning followed by my office at my Mom’s boutique where I help her out when I am not playing and back home.

14. A cricket match you played, and still remember and have enjoyed the most?
It would always be the 50 over game against Vidharbha (state matches) where we were chasing 79 and I took my team through with my batting and scored 24 not out. This is the best memory that I will cherish forever.

15. You have represented Karnataka state for almost 5 years now. How has the journey been? Highlight some of the high-low moments during these 5 years.
Playing for Karnataka has been a very proud moment for me. I have been fortunate to be working with Kalpi and Shantha ma’am. They have had a huge impact on my game. I love playing for the state and the journey has been like roller coaster ride with a lot of ups and downs. The highs definitely are the times we have won and been champions in the South Zone and played as a team and learnt a lot from my seniors back then. The lows are a part and parcel of a professional cricketer and you have to take it in your stride and move on. Every cricketer goes through it.

16. (Approx) how many domestic female players do we have in India right now? What all tournaments are available for them today?
Every year the number increases because a lot of youngsters are getting inspired daily. There would be more 3000 girls all around the country who are playing in different age groups. There aren’t many tournaments for them at all. Off lately there have been some invitation tournaments in different states like Kolhapur, Pune and Mysore where we recently had WPCL (women’s pro cricket league). But again these tournaments are not for all as it is on invitation basis. It is really sad the whole year we work hard just for 5 to 10 matches.

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17. What all are the challenges faced by a domestic female cricketer today?
First and foremost is the lack of match practice. Some states do conduct some matches before a season but its not all the time. The second most important thing is the pay for the domestic matches is very meager and peanuts. There are a lot of girls who are from rural areas and not from well-to-do families, they find it very difficult to survive. The rest is great after the merger with BCCI.

18. What measures do you feel should be taken by BCCI / corporate entity for the betterment of domestic players in the country?
1. Conduct more tournaments like IPL and other 50 over or 3 day games where we could play more games and recognize talent in the country.
2. The pay for the domestic players
3. Sponsorship for some of the domestic players who are deserving and it would serve as a huge motivation for them
4. Coaching camps with some experienced India players which will help them learn, not just for India players but also domestic players who do not make it to Challengers.

19. Throw some light on your recent initiative – Women’s Pro Cricket League, which happened to be the 1st Pink ball cricket tournament.
The main purpose is to promote women’s cricket in Mysore and India which also gave us an opportunity to play more matches against some of the best teams in our country which we usually do not get to play because of the Elite and Plate system in the domestic matches. There was some high level of competitive cricket in WPCL and it was great to watch some of the former and current India players in action which is rare to see. More of these tournaments will instill great confidence in the players to do well at a domestic level which in turn will knock the doors for the country.

20. For an aspiring female cricketer, what is the step/process to become a national player today? List down the detailed pathway!
1. Just believe in yourself
2. Talent alone will not take you anywhere, you have got to unleash the beast in you when you play cricket
3. Playing fearless is a sure shot step to India. 
4. Win matches for your state, be a match winner and work as hard as you can. Hard-work always pays.

21. Your views on our Female Cricket platform?
It’s a wonderful initiative by Female cricket. I think you guys have been very gutsy and taken this bold step to promote women’s cricket in India. Its not easy to do what you are doing but its very commendable and I really admire what female cricket is doing for women’s cricket. I wish you all the very best for the future, may you have many more followers. And it would be an honour for me to be a part of it in anyway I can. Hope you reach greater heights and through this platform you are already touching a huge audience out there by putting up live scores and updating religiously daily. God bless you and good luck.

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