Just recently, this swashbuckling bat from Karnataka won the Player of the Series in the India Nippon Cup. She has been around for over 10 years in the domestic circuit and has been a prolific run-getter for Karnataka. Leading her state team into many finals, there is seldom any doubt that she has been a vital cog.
We are talking about Divya Gnanananda. Female Cricket got in touch with this swashbuckling bat to know more about her cricketing journey.
How did you start playing cricket?
I started playing gully cricket. In my school, there was cricket for girls and I played my first inter-school cricket tournament in the eighth standard. I played inter-school tournaments for two years. When I was in ninth standard, my coach told me about selection trials for Karnataka U-19. Till that time I was hardly aware of any such thing. I didn’t even know where the ground was (chuckles). As suggested by my coach I went for the trials. I batted in the nets and I was picked up in the probables of Karnataka U-19. A year later I made my way into the state team. That was a proud moment for me as my father, who was a cricketer himself, always dreamt that his daughters would pursue cricket. Though my elder sister did not pick up the sport, I managed to fulfill his dream.
Since 2009 you have been a part of the Karnataka outfit. Can you take us through your early days playing for the state?
Though I started as an opening bat, in the initial few years for Karnataka U-19, I batted lower down the order as there were many senior players in the side. I was mainly a part of the team because of my good fielding. Gradually as years passed, I started making my way to the top of the order. A few years later into my U-19 journey, I was handed over the captaincy as well. It was a great feeling to lead the side. With additional responsibility, it was my duty to lead from the front not only as captain but also as a batter. After U-19, I made my way into the U-23 team and then into the senior state side.
Did you always want to be an opening bat?
Right from the beginning I always enjoyed playing with the hard new ball. I feel it comes on to the bat nicely and it is easy to score quick runs off the new ball. Also, the fact that I practiced with boys who bowled fast helped me as an opener. I believe in showing aggressive intent and going on top of the bowlers. It is perhaps this mindset which helped me realize my goal to be an opening bat.
Can you tell us about some of your best innings?
It was my last year for Karnataka U-19. I had a good season both as a captain and a batter. That year we were the South Zone champions and later we went on to secure the runner-up position at the All-India level. My best score came against Hyderabad when I made 74. It was even more special because that day my father had come to watch me play. I also struck three consecutive half-centuries against Goa, Hyderabad, and Kerala.
Were there any lows in your career?
Yes, it was during my last year for Karnataka U-23. I had a good season with the bat and I ended the season as the sixth-highest run-getter at the All-India level. Honestly, I was expecting to be getting picked for the U-23 Challenger Trophy. I had scores like 57 against Railways, 73 not out against Punjab, 63 against Kerala, so I was hoping to make the cut. But unfortunately, I wasn’t picked. The teams were announced just the day before the semi-final. I was disturbed but then thought to myself maybe the half-centuries were not enough, I needed a century to make a strong case for myself.
Karnataka has been quite successful over the years. Can you share with us the secret formula for this?
We share a good camaraderie with each other. There is a belief in the team. There is nothing like juniors and seniors in the team. We play together as a unit and help each other in difficult times. We enjoy each other’s success and are willing to learn from one another.
There is a healthy environment in the dressing room and I guess that helps us perform well on the ground. We are also blessed with good coaches, trainers, and support staff. Equal credit goes to the players as well as to people who are with us off the field.
Now that women’s cricket is slowly and steadily picking up pace, according to you what can be done by the cricketing bodies to improve domestic cricket?
I believe that there should be more and more matches arranged for the girls. How much ever you practice in the nets, playing in a match is an altogether different ball game. Slowly we are starting to see a good number of matches for girls at the domestic level and I think this will go a long way in getting new talent.
Finally, how was the experience playing the India Nippon Cup?
It was an amazing experience. Though we didn’t win, I was happy with the overall output of the tournament. Special thanks to Shantha ma’am and Kalpana ma’am for pulling off this tournament brilliantly. It was a good experience playing the matches after a long break. Usually, we do not get many chances to face India bowlers like Radha Yadav, Deepti Sharma, and Rajeshwari Gayakwad, but through this tournament, we could get a feel to play the top bowlers. Hope this tournament happens every year.
I am a former cricketer having represented Mumbai University at All India University level. I was a part of MCA probables for the U-19 and U-23 age group. I have been an avid cricket writer for the last five years. Currently I am pursuing my Ph.D from IIT Bombay.