22 Year Old Anjali Sarvani from Andhra is a sports fanatic since childhood and played several sports before taking up cricket. An accidental start to her cricket career, Anjali soon developed an interest in cricket after she was picked for her district cricket team. She never looked back since then. A great admirer of Yuvraj Singh, Anjali always wanted to contribute with both bat and ball.
After some incredible performances at the state level, Anjali was called to play for India A and then made way into the Challengers Trophy, sharing dressing room with Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues and Sushma Verma. What happened next? Read the interview to know more.
Excerpts from the interview:
1. What age did you start playing cricket? What made you take up this sport?
When I was a kid I used to play all the sports. I never played with dolls though. I used to play gully cricket a lot with my cousins and friends. When I was in 7th grade, I went to a Summer camp at my home town because I wanted to learn cricket, just for fun because. So I went to the camp and the coach who was at the camp was a member of the district cricket association. He was impressed after seeing my interest in the sport. After the camp was done he came up to my father and asked him to bring me for district team selections and I didn’t know anything about women’s cricket till then so I went and gave a shot and I got selected for the U16 district team when I was 12 years old and later it was my father’s decision who backed up my decision of cricket.
2. Can you tell us about your early days in cricket? Who was your inspiration?
At my home, there is not a single person who went to a sports career and I became the first one. I didn’t know anything about women’s cricket because there was never a match live on TV, I always saw men’s cricket on TV. But I when got selected in the district team I got to know that women’s cricket exists as well. My inspiration was Yuvraj sir because he was a lefty like me and he is an all-rounder. I always wanted to become like him but the only difference was I took up fast bowling, unlike his spin. I used to love his aggression on the field, whether it was fielding bowling or batting I always wanted to be like him and play like him.
3. What do you enjoy more, batting or bowling?
As I am an all-rounder I love doing both. But in bowling, I always try to get wickets in the start of the innings and it gives me great happiness to give a great start to the team but when it comes to batting I play mostly in responsible situations and in tough times and I love doing it because I give my best in batting in those times compared to normal situations.
4. What does it take to be a good fast bowler?
A good fast bowler always has to try to stay fit and keep working on the skills and be aggressive and keep hitting those good lengths and have to keep the right fielders at the right places. She should always back herself and take up the challenges thrown at her. Fitness is the biggest part in a bowler’s journey, even a tiny pain can lead to big injury for a fast bowler, so that should be kept in mind.
5. Which year did you make your domestic debut? How was the feeling when you were selected to play for Andhra Pradesh state team?
I got selected in the year 2012 for U19 and Seniors. I never expected that I would be part of the senior team as well because there is very high competition in Andhra. A lot of talented players from a young age have played and proved their mettle at different stages. I was 15 when I got selected for U19 and Senior team and I was very excited to be part of the Senior team because we can get to learn a lot and got to see how they play in different situations and how do they make a come back from difficult situations.
6. Last year you got selected for India A, how did you feel about it? What were some of the key learnings from the tournament?
Last year was an amazing season for us because we reached the Senior One Day Tournament finals but we lost by 11 Runs against Bengal and I had a pretty good performance in Seniors and U23 as well. After that, I got selected for the U23 NCA Camp at Bangalore. We were told that by the end of the camp, they are going to pick India A and U23 Asia Cup team from the camp and there were a lot of players who had already been playing that level and I was hoping that I would get selected. After the camp, I joined the Andhra team for T20 practice matches with the Karnataka team and at the end of that tournament, I got a call that I was in the team and I was happily shocked. I was the new entrant who got picked and I was very excited to be part of it.
We won India A series against Bangladesh and also we won Emerging Women’s Asia CUP at Sri Lanka and it was an amazing experience to be part of the team and got to learn a lot of things from the other teams as well and got to work with the coaches and that tournament helped me a lot in the domestic season this year.
7. This year you also played under the captainship of Smriti Mandhana in the T20 Challenger Trophy. How was that experience?
I was very excited when I got selected for the Challengers Trophy and from Andhra, I was the only one who got selected and I was pretty nervous to be with and share the dressing room with the Indian cricketers like Smriti, Jemimah, Sushma Verma, and Shikha Pandey. They were very friendly and whenever I went to them to ask anything, they were always ready and free to talk without any hesitation. Although we were runners up, I was very happy to see and learn from them throughout the tournament.
8. In this lockdown what are you doing to keep yourself fit?
I got a few dumbells at home and my trainer is giving me workouts that are helping me to stay fit. As a sports person, we can’t sit at one place because we are used to playing and roaming from one place to another and always busy playing matches. That’s why its tough to stay at home but it is the right thing to do at the moment.
9. How can an aspiring fast bowler stay and keep herself fit in this lockdown?
As I said we should know the right way of it and we play a lot of matches and bowl a lot of balls and this is the perfect time to get the recovery to the body and get the strength back mentally and physically. We know what drawbacks we had in the past Matches and the Past soreness or injuries always have to keep working on them and build the strength back and be ready for the upcoming matches.
10. What is the process to get into Andhra State Cricket Team? From where can a girl start?
For every district, there is an association in Andhra. Every year before the season there will be district meet held for all age groups. All the districts will be divided and will play 5-6 matches. From those Matches, they pick 3 teams and there will be a camp for the individual teams in different places at least for a week. These 3 teams will play 6 matches against each other. The probables will be picked from these matches.
The probables will have a camp 2 months before the tournament and a lot of practice matches will be held against boys and 1 month before the tournament the team will be announced and will stay at Guntur women’s cricket academy. Any girl who wants to take up cricket in Andhra can go to any district and they will get all the support for practice and the coaches will be there all the time.
11. Did you get support from your family, school, etc. to play cricket?
I finished my secondary education at Milton GEM high school ADONI, Kurnool district. In my town, there was not even a single person who took sports as a career. All the kids and all their parents don’t support much for sports but my family always supported me from a young age. I was in athletics before cricket and my dad supported me in everything. After taking up cricket as my career my family and people around me never judged me. My school gave me permission and never forced me to come to school or to attend the exams. I only wrote the 10th public exam. I never wrote other tests at school due to a lack of time because of rigorous training and practice.
12. How easy or difficult was it to find girls’ cricket coaching in Andhra?
There are many coaches in every part of Andhra. It is easy in Andhra to find coaching and all the coaches are very supportive and they don’t treat you any different compared to the boys. Earlier there used to be fewer women coaches but now In Andhra every district has a woman coach and lot of opportunities for women’s to be a coach is growing day by day.
13. You have played both, 50-over format and 20-over format, do you approach bowling differently in these two formats?
Yes, there is a difference in the situations. But when it comes to the mindset, it’s the same. As we play white-ball cricket more there is no much difference in 50 overs and 20 overs these days. An approach towards the game has seen a lot of change in the past few years. As a fast bowler mindset matters the most. Skill is always the same.
14. Has the perception towards women’s cricket changed in Andhra?
Andhra has always supported women’s cricket for many years. We get the best grounds to play and the best facility for practice and fitness and there will always be camps even in Summer. They always try to help us and give support off-season too. We have a Women’s academy in Guntur. A lot of state matches have been played on that ground. Compared to other associations, I think Andhra has done great in supporting women’s cricket.
15. If there’s one thing you wish you could change in order to further grow women’s cricket, what would that be?
I want Women’s IPL to start as soon as possible so that a lot of players get an opportunity to play with the big players and learn from them. We can see the difference in the men’s cricket before and after the IPL. If we get the chance of playing IPL, then there will be a lot of difference in the approach of cricket in both the formats. And also playing many matches and series with different countries will give a lot of experience about the wickets and the weather conditions and how we can adapt to those kinds of climates. Women should get more exposure all over the country so that lot of raw talents can be found.
16. Your feedback/suggestion for our platform Female Cricket?
Female Cricket has done an incredible job by putting out information around women’s cricket in every possible way. I love the way you highlight young talents across the world and share their story on your platform. Last 3-4 years, your team has done exceptionally well. Thank you so much for taking up my story and sharing it with the world.