A woman in a ‘man’s’ sport – My experience of playing cricket internationally.

I joined FLAME because they offered various sporting facilities of international standard. I wanted to pursue sports seriously. I was aware that it is an uphill task when you are trying to excel both in academics and sports. However, at FLAME my dedication increased as I was constantly coached and given the best of facilities. I am also completely aware as to what it takes to be a good sportsman as my father is a good hockey player and both his sisters played hockey for the Indian national team back in early 80’s.  My own swimming career started when I was 4 years old when my father took me along every time he went swimming. After some professional coaching I went on to represent CBSE schools, from Oman, at the national level in India for 9 years.

I always had a liking towards cricket and during 2012, my father put me on to a very good coach in Oman with whom I have been practicing hard ever since. During the 2014 GCC women’s cricket tournament, which was held in Oman, I captained the team to finish third. I was extremely thrilled when I got a call from the Oman cricket board this October, inviting me to join the team in order to participate in the GCC 2015 tournament which was to be held in Doha, the capital city of Qatar. I was in a bit of a quandary, hence with great trepidation, I approached Dr. Razmi who has been my mentor at FLAME, and has always encouraged me in the field of sports. She was instantly delighted to hear about this opportunity, and was very supportive. My doubts vanished, when she told me that I should follow this and make it to the tournament and that she and FLAME will support me completely in this endeavor.  Meanwhile, the Oman cricket board had written a formal request letter to Prof. Santosh Kudtarkar, Associate Dean – Faculty of Liberal Education at FLAME, to allow me to participate by granting adequate leave. I am extremely grateful to Prof. Santosh Kudtarkar for taking this matter forward and discussing it with the faculty members to grant me the required amount of leave. I was elated when I was informed that FLAME will be supporting me completely.

Post the approval, I was very excited as I began my training with the boys at FLAME. I owe so much to them for their advice and even the coach for all the tips and advising me on how I can improve my game. They all came forward and taught me the nuances of posture and how to approach the ball differently. The FLAME cricket team constantly practiced with me and I became better and better with each passing day.

When it was time to leave for Muscat, I felt ready and confident for the next step, thanks to my daily practice on the international sized cricket ground at FLAME. After two weeks of intense training in Muscat, with a probable list of 20 players, the final team of 14 was announced in mid-November. Ms. Vaishali Jesrani, who was the team coach last year, announced that she would be playing this year. Therefore a very eminent coach was brought on board to replace her.

The purpose of this tournament was to encourage more gulf countries to participate, as well as encourage more women to get involved in this amazing sport. We were given the privilege of playing under floodlights in Doha which was a rare experience and which gave us the added exposure to play under such circumstances. The size of the cricket ground did intimidate other girls, but not me, as I had been practicing on the international sized cricket ground at FLAME. Hence it boosted my confidence as I had better judgment as compared to others which impressed my coach immensely.

Finally, the tournament day arrived and it was indeed a great moment to walk into this world-class stadium in Doha and experience the competiveness at the international level. We fought well but couldn’t get a standing in the tournament this year. The team from UAE won the tournament. Even though I was disappointed, the learning and value addition from the experience was immense.

I once again thank the faculty and Associate Dean at FLAME for all the support. When I came back to FLAME, they were all so proud of me.  Guess this is what keeps sports men and women sweating it out all their life – the assurance that they are being recognized and appreciated.

– Sunayna Devaiah, FLAME

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