Veda fighting her way back

Veda Krishnamurthy is fighting to regain her place in the Indian women’s squad. File Photo

The 2017 World Cup final appearance in England changed the way women's cricket was looked at in India. Playing a fearless brand of cricket, the Indian team, with the right mix of youth and experience, fired the imagination of the nation. Stadiums often attracted capacity crowds and the TV viewership rivaled some of the men's tournaments.

Post the World Cup, some of the young women cricketers' popularity too skyrocketed, and among them was Karnataka's Veda Krishnamurthy. With her blistering knocks, the 25-year-old became one of the top 3 followed Indian women cricketers in India across various social media platforms. She was featured on several magazine covers, her face was flashed on billboards and TV channels devoted much airtime to her.

Just over two years after that high, Veda is at the other end of the spectrum. Just as in life, in sport too, failure tails success and she has learnt to take the rough with the smooth. She, however, doesn't seem too bogged down by the dip in her fortunes and provides a peak into her persona with her an enviable self-confidence. “I decide my fate and nobody else,” she had once said.

The Chikkamagaluru girl, an inspiration for many budding women cricketers from Karnataka, made made her international debut in 2011 against England at Derby in the Natwest Women’s Quadrangular Series and slammed a half-century. She was just 18. However, just after a year, she lost her place in the side. Undeterred, she regained her place soon. Today, the right-handed batswoman is aiming to emerge from the sidelines once again.

In the beginning, it was a career that promised exciting results. Veda isn’t the conventional middle-order batswoman. Blessed with fast hand-eye coordination, she is always looking to go for the kill. When it works, her style of play is just what the team needs during the fag end of the innings.

Veda was part of the young brigade -- which included Smriti Mandhana, Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Deepti Sharma – that played fearless brand of cricket and challenged dominant forces like England, New Zealand and Australia. 

Performances, however, deserted her soon after the World Cup as Veda faced the harsh realities of batting in the middle-order. Tricky situations and less time at the crease troubled her. Poor shot selection added to her woes. The axe fell on Veda after her poor run in the Asia Cup and Women’s World T20. She was dropped from the limited overs side for the tour of New Zealand in December last.

The 26-year-old recollects the tough days. “It’s tough to keep a single thought running when you aren’t performing," she says. "I sweated it out in the 'nets' and also spoke to people about my batting. I tried a lot of things. I changed my technique. I practised more. Despite putting in the extra effort things didn’t work my way. That’s when I decided to stay calm and give my career some time,” she recalls.

The role of a middle-order batswoman can be extremely demanding as Veda explains. “I don’t have the cushion of facing too many balls to settle down. In limited overs cricket, you need to keep dominating and bat smartly. In the 50-over format, I would arrive to bat with just 40 balls to spare. I had to get runs quickly.”

A chance encounter with former India opener Gautam Gambhir at an airport instilled hope in Veda. “Gambhir told me that in IPL, he always prefers the middle-order batsmen getting the man-of-the match awards because their job is tougher compared to the top-order players who have so much time in the middle. Even the 10-15 runs scored by middle-order batsmen towards the end can make a big difference. It was very motivating to listen to him,” she says.

Veda has it in her to go back to her glory days which saw her play the Women’s Big Bash League (BBL) in 2016. “The BBL was a different learning process altogether. It was like going out of my comfort zone and adapting to a new culture and meeting new people. I found it hard initially but during the second phase, I began enjoying the experience,” says Veda, who turned out for Hobart Hurricanes.

She was part of Velocity, the team that finished runners-up in the inaugural Women’s T20 Challenge. “It was time we played a tournament like IPL. Women’s cricket has become really entertaining and players are hitting sixes regularly, taking brilliant catches and bowling beauties. The stadium was packed for the final. The games got good response on television as well. More such editions will bridge the gap between those aspiring to play for country and those who are already established in the national side,” she observes.

Her numbers, 829 runs from 48 ODIs and 686 runs from 59 T20Is leave you wanting for more. She now aims to play the Women’s T20 World Cup next year (February 21-March 8). “The World Cup is definitely on my mind. It’s a matter of pride to play for India in a World Cup. This season will be crucial for me,” she concludes.

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