Wicket-keeper-batter, Ravi Venkateswarlu Kalpana, daughter to an autorickshaw driver from Guntur, Andra Pradesh who’d made her way to the Indian cricket team, today, aged 26, announced her retirement from all forms of an international career. Her career didn’t necessarily go the way she would have liked but a big win away from the game should get us to see her as a champion player.
Kalpana’s game started to grow as she became a regular feature at the JKC college ground in Guntur where coaching was held especially for girls by the Andhra Pradesh Cricket Association (APCA). It was there where she met her first coach Srinivas Reddy who helped her with her batting and shaped her wicket-keeping skills.
Kalpana started her career by playing for the state team with an allowance of INR 4000 from the Andhra Pradesh Cricket Association (APCA). She was initially a part of the South Zone division for the Under 16 team and in 2011, she went on to play for the Under 19 team and then the India Green Team in 2012 to the Senior South Zone team in 2014.
Kalpana in her conversation with Female Cricket recollecting her struggles said, “There was a time I stopped playing altogether because we couldn’t afford to. Buying kits was not cheap, since my father is an auto driver. But I’ve had to support of my wonderful coaches throughout my career. Coach Srinivas Reddy convinced my family to let me continue playing and to not worry about the expenses.”
Kalpana fought her way out to the top as she then was selected for the Indian women’s team in 2015. She then debut in the same year against New Zealand and since then featured in 7 international games for India and scored only a couple of runs in 3 innings. As a wicketkeeper, she’s got 3 catches and a stumping to her name.
Kalpana works for the Indian Railways and lives in Vijayawada. She also has got a B.Com degree from Nalanda Degree College in Vijayawada and is the first generation in her family to be educated. In my opening para above, I quoted, “her career didn’t necessarily go the way she would have liked but a big win away from the game should get us to see her as a champion player” and now clearly her career is known, the other bit of what her a champion player are her struggles off the field on which she ones infamously quoted, “My most memorable win is so far to convince my family and stop my marriage which could have happened almost abruptly.”
The 26-year-old, looking for a comeback continued to play domestic cricket after being dropped from the international side in 2016 and her last domestic game was in 2021. She also made it to the Broad of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) organised, the Women’s T20 Challenge, for the Trailblazer in the 2019 edition.
In the same conversation, on how she’d started playing cricket she said, (“I’ve always been interested in sports and games, but never really got an opportunity to actually play all that much.”) “Eventually, someone came around and asked if anyone in the class would be interested in playing Cricket, and I’m thinking, hey, I enjoy sports so why not raise my hand, and I did. There was no turning back after that.”
On breaking stereotypes, Kalpana in her interview with The Hindu said, “When I played in school it was no big deal but once I started going to the academy, the taunts started. My parents were not very supportive either and hence I had to stop playing for a few months despite getting good at the game. My father is an auto-rickshaw driver and he doesn’t follow cricket much. Once I turned 18 my family and relatives started pressuring me for marriage. As we were struggling financially, they wanted me to get married soon so that I could be well-off.”
It is such that only when she was selected to play for India, did her parents realize that their daughter has got to a place where not many haven’t and accepted the fact of cricket is a big part of her life. She’d added in the same (The Hindu) interview, “Even now they are not very fond of my game but now they do understand my passion for it and do not stop me from following it.”
The fighter in life she’s been was reflected in her interview with Female Cricket when she said, (always ready to take on the challenge), Yes, no matter what, I was very particular in a challenge if someone gives some challenge, (very competitive) yes yes.
Come out of numbers and stats, Kalpana is a player who broke stereotypes and is one of a kind who deserves equal recognition and has to be celebrated for her own reasons.