The former Tamil Nadu cricketer, who has hung up her boots from playing and has taken up the role of a match official, has made India proud as she became one out of the only two Indians selected for the coveted ICC 100% Cricket Future Leaders Programme.
She will be mentored by Australian umpire Claire Polosak. Commemorating her success, Female Cricket got in touch with Chennai-based Vijeylaxmi Narasimhan, to unravel her cricket-playing journey, her tryst with cricket coaching and match officiating.
Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us about your early days in cricket.
I started playing tennis ball cricket with my brother and his friends. Back then, I had no idea about women’s cricket, so I continued playing with the boys. In 2002, during my first year of degree college, I played with the leather ball for the very first time. I used to practice with my college team. I played club matches, district-level matches, and so on. I also represented my University. In that very year itself, I made my debut for Tamil Nadu U-19 and senior teams. I played at the domestic level between 2002 and 2013, including a couple of years with the Indian Railways.
After your domestic stint, you took a break to get married and start a family. How did you make your way back into the sport?
After a break of three years, I returned to cricket in 2016, not as a player but as a coach. One of my dear friends, Aarti Sankaran, who is the head coach of Tamil Nadu suggested coaching to me. Honestly, I had never coached before but was excited to take up a new challenge. Aarti’s support and guidance helped me in my initial coaching days and I will always be grateful to her for introducing me to coaching. In 2016 itself, I did a summer camp with Tamil Nadu U-19, and the following year, I was appointed as the head coach for Tamil Nadu girls U-16 and U-19. I was a part of the settings for a year. During that time, I also cleared the BCCI level 1 coaching exam.
You were doing well as a coach, so when did you decide to take up the role of match referee?
After being around as a coach for around two years, I decided to try my hand at officiating. That is when I applied for the “match referee” exam and cleared the same in July 2018. After that, I became a certified BCCI match referee. My first assignment was the U-16 Vijay Hazare Trophy match between Saurashtra and Mumbai that was played at Rajkot. It was an exciting experience for me officiating my first ever game. As I moved up the ladder, I got the opportunity to officiate in international women’s games like the quadrangular T20 series in Patna featuring India A, B, Bangladesh and Thailand national teams in 2020, apart from two Tamil Nadu Premier League matches in 2019.
Did you face any challenges?
Honestly, I feel lucky that people around me like G.S. Lakshmi and Niyati Lokur were very helpful, supportive and accommodating. I learned a lot from the senior umpires and match referees since they had a wealth of experience with them. Over the years, we have come a long way and I feel pleased to share that today we share a healthy camaraderie.
Recently you were selected for the ICC 100% Cricket Future Leaders Programme. How did that feel?
I was elated when I came to know about my selection. Honestly, I had not expected it. On the day of the result announcement, one of my colleagues, Vrinda Rathi messaged me, “Congratulations”. At first, I did not understand but later when I asked her she told me about my selection.
You will be mentored by Australian umpire Claire Polosak. What are your expectations from the programme?
I am looking forward to learning about professional ethics and domain knowledge, in addition to the man-management skills that are required for a match official. It has been a tough year and a half for all of us, so just to put my mind to something new and interesting, it would be great. Also through this program, I believe that I will get to understand the different cultures in other cricket-playing nations, and of course an opportunity to learn from them.
What message would you like to share with the budding cricketers, coach and referee aspirants?
I will just say give your 100% in whatever you do. Put your heart and soul to it and I am sure you will achieve success.
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.