Jacintha's journey from receptionist to pitch curator

Jacintha Kalyan is set to become India’s first female pitch curator who will oversee the preparation of the 22-yard strip for the Bengaluru leg of WPL.
Last Updated 22 February 2024, 15:31 IST

Cricket was alien to a 16-year-old 10th grade pass-out from a Kannada medium government school. An opportunity to be a receptionist, however, made Jacintha Kalyan walk into the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) for the first time in 1994.

She had to take up this day job so that she could earn enough to pursue her course in commerce stream at the VV Puram evening college besides supporting her farmer parents back home in Harobele, a village in Kanakapura. 

Legends of the game strolled around while cricketing history was being etched at the iconic ground as Jacintha went about climbing her own ladder quietly on the sidelines. The KSCA receptionist, transferred to administration before being entrusted with accounts and later the ticketing department, will now become India’s first female pitch curator who will oversee the preparation of the 22-yard strip for the Bengaluru leg of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) starting today. 

“I'm not a cricketer, I used to watch the game once in a while,” says Jacintha. “Except fours and sixes, I understood nothing,” she quips. 

“In 2014, Brijesh (Patel) sir (the then KSCA Secretary) asked me to do some man management of the groundsmen. It took me around 6 months to get used to the role. Then he asked Prashanth (Rao) sir (chief curator) to guide and teach me everything about the art of preparing pitches since he thought I showed interest. 

“Prashanth sir taught me everything from scratch. Grass, soil, water maintenance, moisture.. everything. After five years of training and working with him, KSCA referred my name in 2018 to take up the BCCI curators exam that I passed,” she reminisces.

Jacintha has been an integral part of Rao’s team, which has 25 ground staff, for several international T20Is, ODIs and multi-day matches over the last couple of years. 

She returned to the city recently after having completed her first BCCI assignment of a neutral curator for this season’s Ranji Trophy in three venues (1 Pondicherry, 2 Goa, 2 Trivandrum).  

However, it is her experience of preparing pitches for the Maharaja Cup, a T20 tournament organised by KSCA, that will give her confidence to carry out her duties at the WPL, she says. 

“We did 17 matches back-to-back and that too two matches a day. That was great learning for me,” noted Jacintha, about being ready for 11 WPL matches slated in a row at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.  

The simplicity of her roots has ensured that Jacintha hasn't forgotten the route that has led her to the centre-stage. Jacintha realises that the responsibility of delivering good work takes precedence over all the attention coming her way. 

“It makes me happy but I’m a bit nervous too," she admits. "However, I have a great support system that has hard working ground staff. And Prashanth sir is the backbone who will correct my mistakes and give me the courage to lead. To live up to the trust and expectations is all I’m focused on now.” 

She hurries off as someone in the background requires her attention. 

While the women cricketers smash fours and sixes, take wickets or throw themselves to save runs, ‘Jacintha the curator’ will be the first to arrive and the last to leave KSCA for the next fortnight, busy facilitating all the on-field drama that's set to unfold.

(Published 22 February 2024, 15:31 IST)

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