This talented left-arm spinner from Maharashtra caught many eyeballs as she completed the recently concluded senior women’s T20 league as the leading wicket-taker. With 13 wickets in eight matches, playing her first-ever senior women’s T20 tournament, she stamped her authority.
Female Cricket got in touch with this wily spinner from Maharashtra, Aarti Kedar, to know more about her cricketing journey and future plans.
Tell us about your childhood and when did you start playing cricket?
I was born and brought up in Pathardi taluka in Ahmednagar district. My parents are farmers and I have an elder sister and younger brother. Cricket was not the first sport that I took up. I played volleyball in school and represented my school, M.M.Nirhali Vidyalaya in volleyball tournaments. Our volleyball coach was Shashikant Nirhali sir. When I was in the ninth standard, I remember sir asking me and the other girls in our volleyball team whether we would like to play cricket. Honestly, I was not too keen on playing cricket but since my friends decided to do so I also joined them. Shashikant sir ran his own cricket academy, where till then only boys practiced. Ours was the first batch of girls playing cricket in sir’s academy. Everyday I used to cycle for two hours, one way, to reach the academy.
Did you always want to become a left-arm spinner?
Actually, I did not enjoy bowling but Shashikant sir felt that I could be a good bowler. I was a left-handed player, I batted left-handed and my throwing arm was also left. During our fielding sessions, sir had observed that my throw was quite strong and so he thought that I could be a good bowler. Also, the fact that I was left-handed was unique as we did not have too many left-arm bowlers in the academy then. Sir started training me to become a left-arm spinner.
Since I did not enjoy bowling, I used to cry. Also, I recall one of the school matches in which I bowled but was later suspended due to my objectionable bowling action. That day I thought of quitting the sport. However, sir came up to me and talked to me about my bowling.
We discussed this in detail and later there was a paradigm shift in my bowling. I went on to play for my college as well as university at the All India University level.
When did you break into the Maharashtra state team?
Every year we used to have selection trials for Maharashtra and on an average one to two girls used to get picked from every district. The year in which I got selected for Maharashtra U19, three girls from my district were picked and all of us featured in the playing XI. I played for Maharashtra U19 for two years, 2017-18 and 2018-19. The second year of my U19 was great for me as I was the best bowler of the season. After being left out of the senior state team in 2020-21, I made the cut in 2021-22. This is my first year playing for the Maharashtra senior state team.
You played under the captainship of Smriti Mandhana in this year’s Senior Women’s T20 league. How was that experience?
This was the first time I played for the Maharashtra senior team in a T20 tournament. Smriti di was great as a captain. During our team meetings, she shared her experiences which helped us a lot. Also, she would have one-to-one discussions with the players and help them work on their weaknesses. She gave us a lot of confidence and asked us to dream big, which was not just to play for India but also to win the World Cup for the team.
Being your first ever T20 tournament for Maharashtra senior team, you ended up being the leading wicket-taker of the competition. How does it feel?
It feels amazing to finish the tournament as the leading wicket-taker and help my team reach the finals of the senior women’s T20 league this year. Honestly, I didn’t expect to achieve this feat. I am glad that I could contribute to my team’s success. I enjoyed bowling with the new hardball and inside the powerplay.
On the back of your brilliant bowling performance, you have been selected by Velocity for the Women’s T20 Challenge. How excited are you to play in this tournament?
I am very excited to play in this tournament. Before the senior women’s T20 league I didn’t expect to be a part of the Women’s T20 Challenge but with the kind of success I achieved in the domestic competition I was hopeful of making the cut. I want to make the most of this opportunity.
What is your ultimate dream?
I want to play for India and win the World Cup for the country.
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.