While India is finding its feet in women’s cricket, and players like Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami, Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandana are turning to be household names, we still have a long way to go. And, no, I am not even going to attempt comparing them to a Sachin or Dhoni. For them, a part of their name is enough.
Nevertheless, recently I got to interact with one of the former Indian women cricket team players of our country – Ms. Minoti Desai. In the early 80s, she was employed by the Indian Railways and was playing for them and a couple of other teams and has brought many a laurels to the group. In 1992, she left the Railways to play for her state – Madhya Pradesh and Central Zone. Under her captaincy, MP was winner in Senior nationals held at Delhi in 1993.
Here are a few snippets from my conversation with her.
Jyoti: Please tell us about your journey as a cricketer and what you do now.
Minoti: I started playing cricket when I was 13 years old. I have played for many teams, Madhya Pradesh, Indian universities (combined), Indian Railways, Central zone, Institution zone and of course INDIA. At the national level, my highest score has been 150 runs, and I received the Best BatsWoman for three consecutive years, 1985 to 1987, in junior nationals.
For the Indian University team, I was the only cricketer who has captained for both the Senior and Junior teams. And in the Kottayam Nationals, under my captaincy, the Junior team was the National Champion in 1987.
I quit playing when I was 25 years old, and joined (and currently working there) the Ministry of Finance (Department of Revenue), Govt. of India, as a Gazetted Officer.
Jyoti: Your book, She The Cricketer, is coming out soon! What inspired you to write it and what is it about?
Minoti: Yes! It is being launched in January 2021 in both English and Hindi. I wrote this book, which is a fiction, to walk the readers through the life of a female cricket player in India and give them an insight into the cricketing journey. Of course, my being a cricketer and an ardent cricket lover, it was easy to write about a cricketing character. I also wanted that through this book people get glimpse of the challenges that a sportsperson often comes across. Even though it is a fiction, in my opinion the journey and mindset of sportspeople remains more or less the same.
Jyoti: Sounds interesting. I would love to read it as soon as it comes out! Can you tell us a bit more about it?
Minoti: The story revolves around a fiery teenager Sonia, who is a charming, happy-go-lucky, strong-willed, passionate and a very courageous girl.
While growing up, she discovers her passion for cricket and she madly falls in love with it. She pursues her dream to play for the National team. She paves her way through to the national women’s cricket team at an early age of just 17. She is fortunate enough to perform at the international level. Her larger dream is to always keep serving the nation with pride. She goes on to perform exceptionally well, breaking and creating national records.
However, misfortune strikes when besides being part of the game played on the field, she witnesses and experiences games being played off the field by the who’s who of her cricket world, compelling her to abruptly fall out with the first love of her life – Cricket. She abruptly decides to quit.
Jyoti: Considering the name you have made for yourself at the national and international levels of cricket, tell us what it was like playing at that level.
Minoti: Nothing can be more joyous than representing your own country. And at national level, I went on to make and break many records. However it was unfortunate that I had to quit at a very young age.
Jyoti: Were there any institutional and/or personal barriers because you were a woman, when you tried to make a name for yourself at the national level?
Minoti: Not at all. All thanks to my family and upbringing that I have had, I enjoyed every bit of it at all stages, be it national or international. And fortunately, I work for a department where there is immense respect and admiration for those who work and hence have been enjoying my work life too.
Jyoti: Finally, what would be your advice to aspiring women cricketers, especially in the international arena?
Minoti: It is not for only cricketers but for all women who dream to achieve a certain level. My advice would be follow your dream with passion, belief and hard work. Nothing comes on a platter and if you are focused on what you want and work hard towards it , you will get there.
*She The Cricketer will be available in English as well as in Hindi from January 2021 on ecommerce platforms. More information available on www.shethecricketer.com.*
*All images used in this article are either Eyra’s own design or widely and freely available on the internet.*