At 25, Thirush Kamini is already a seasoned star for the Indian women’s team. The Chennai-born left-handed batter has come a long way from the time she made her international debut 10 years ago.
How did the merger with the BCCI change women’s cricket?
The infrastructure got a lot better after the merger with BCCI in 2006. More players started to take up the sport professionally as they got paid well. We also got to play on better grounds and were also able to access the best coaching offered by the BCCI and Tamil Nadu Cricket Association. This, in turn, changed the way people started looking at women’s cricket.
How does the contract system work for women cricketers?
The facilities have definitely got a lot better under the BCCI. The contract system is a great initiative that the BCCI has taken up as it would lead women cricketers to be financially secure. This is the first time the contract for women is introduced. We have two grades, A and B. In A right now, there are four players. Apart from me, Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet and Jhulan Goswami are the others. In Grade B, there are 10 players, mostly from the Indian side.
How did the women’s cricket function before the merger?
During the national women’s cricket association, the funds for its calendar were managed by sponsorships from various organisations and the domestic calendar was for categories based on age. The sub junior tournaments were the under-16 all India tournaments; the junior grade was the under-19 category and like the men’s event, we also had inter-zone competitions in the senior category.
When did you play for the first time for Tamil Nadu?
I played my first match for Tamil Nadu at the age of 10. I have been playing for the last 15 years. If I have to pick three of my best knocks that would be the 152, I scored against Andhra in the inter-state zonal in 2008 which was soon after my mother’s cremation; the 78 not out against Hyderabad in the first invitational T20 tournament in 2006 which happened to be a match-winning performance and then the 96 against Kerala in 2004 in the inter-state competition in Chennai is really special as that was my debut match for Tamil Nadu senior team.
Do you have a coach?
My father, Dickshwashankar is my coach. He was a hockey player for Tamil Nadu and played alongside Olympian V Baskaran. We used to practise at the Gopalapuram ground near our house in Royapettah.
When did you make your debut for India? How did you cement your place in the team?
I made my debut for India in the Asia Cup series in 2006 at Jaipur. My first international match was against Pakistan. Our team was very strong as we had Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami, Anjum Chopra, Jaya Sharma, Rumeli Dhar and Anju Jain in the team. It was hard to break into a team like that. But I really had a dream debut as I won the ‘Woman of the Series’ award in my debut tournament.
Did you have more One-day matches or Tests? Where is your strength, in Tests or ODIs?
Predominantly, we played One-day international matches but recently we also played Test matches against England in England and South Africa in India. We won both of them. I have played only two Tests and in the second one at Mysore against South Africa, I scored 192 from 400-odd balls. So I guess I can play Tests too.
And how about the World Cup century?
The knock versus West Indies in the ICC Women’s World Cup in 2013 at Mumbai will always be very special to me as it was my comeback tournament and match after two years (due to injury) .The platform was huge for me and to perform there was overwhelming. In the process, I became the first Indian woman cricketer to score a century in the World Cup. I enjoyed it so much.
How did that knock change your career?
This knock definitely transformed my career and made me a better cricketer as I gained a lot of confidence and performed well at the international arena. I am now employed with Railways. Southern Railway has a strong women’s team and now we are employing more cricketers.
How do you look at the ‘Lady Jayasuriya’ title…?
(Laughs)..Maybe the batting style and also I am a left-hander and opener. Then I also hit a lot of sixes and fours. That could be the reason.
The writer is a senior sports journalist and columnist