Veda Krishnamurthy: the journey has just begun Photo Courtesy: Veda Krishnamurthy's Facebook profile
Veda Krishnamurthy: the journey has just begun Photo Courtesy: Veda Krishnamurthy’s Facebook profile

Veda Krishnamurthy, born October 16, 1992, is your ideal Gen-X cricketer. Her strokeplay, hovering seamlessly between brutal and elegant, leaves spectators gaping and makes her one of the most dangerous batters in contemporary cricket. However, what really sets her apart from others is her spectacular fielding, a discipline in which she can place a claim for the finest in the world. Abhishek Mukherjee and Shruti Hariharan narrate the tale of the explosive girl from Kadur.

India should make it to 220, perhaps 230, without breaking a sweat: such was the verdict from pundits. It seemed too little a task at 154 for 4 after 36.3 overs, but then, India did not have power-hitters down the order. The problem was, a target of that magnitude would probably not have been enough to contain the big hitters from New Zealand. And this was a match both India and New Zealand had to win.

Of course, Mithali Raj was there the way she has always been, holding the Indian batting together since perhaps the beginning of time. The cricket fraternity had been critical of her 114-ball 69 against Australia Women; perhaps, there was some logic in that.

This, however, was a different day, and Mithali had been hitting them with ease. But as has been the case for 17 years, Mithali needed support. And all she had was a girl who had got to 20 only twice in her last 14 ODIs, and even then she had failed to make it past 31.

Veda Krishnamurthy had replaced Mona Meshram midway through the tournament. Right from her preteens, there had never been a shred of doubt regarding Veda’s potential. Unfortunately, those big scores had rarely come her way.

What was going through her mind as she walked out? “It was a very good batting track. We needed at least 220 on the board. Anything less than that would have been easy for them to come and chase,” she would later tell CricketCountry.

Veda was intercepted by her captain en route the centre. “Observe the pitch for an over, then go for it”: the obvious piece of advice came. Most would have obeyed, and rightly so: Mithali was the captain and arguably the finest batter in the world; the advice was sound; and Veda continues to remain a fan-girl.

But Veda had already made up her mind. She would not play the waiting game. She would do what she was good at.

And when it came to gambling, it was only fitting that she had chosen to do it at Derby.

She gave charge to the third ball she faced. Thankfully, it rolled harmlessly to mid-off. She went after the fourth, pitched outside off, and was beaten. She was clearly not timing the ball. Then she stepped out and smashed Leigh Kasperek over mid-on for four.

There was no looking back after that. Mithali had asked for strike, but Veda was obviously not going to stop. So Mithali did the next-best thing: she kept feeding Veda with the strike.

And Veda went berserk. The hoick she top-edged off Lea Tahuhu probably gave every viewer a near heart attack, but that would not stop her, for she knew there was nothing to fear: “Even I would have got out in the process to get runs, I know she [Mithali] is there to anchor the innings. That was constantly running in my mind.”

Even at this stage Veda was not at her best. She had mistimed several deliveries. She had got 11 off 16, but that would not have bothered Suzie Bates a lot. Bates summoned Amelia Kerr, the leg-spinner who had taken the world by storm at 16: the idea was to make Veda try to force the pace.

Amelia pitched up the first ball. Veda moved away towards leg and lofted her over extra-cover for four, just like that. Yes, that signature Veda Krishnamurthy inside-out extra-cover drive. And her fans back home knew immediately.

Ananya Upendran would later write in CricketCountry: “It is a well-known fact in the Indian domestic circuit that if Krishnamurthy is hitting the ball over cover, she is in fine form. The way she gets slightly leg-side of the ball, dips her shoulder, gets under the ball and extends her arms through the shot — all the while keeping her head so still — is a sight for sore eyes. It is technically one of the most difficult shots to play, but when Krishnamurthy hits it, nothing looks easier.”

The timing was back. Three balls later, Amelia was dispatched over mid-wicket into the stands.

The pacers were not of much help, either. Tahuhu was hit for consecutive fours towards leg before Veda moved aside to play the next ball to the point boundary. Bates herself went for a six and two fours off successive balls.

Suddenly, after facing 36 balls, Veda had moved to 60. The last 22 balls she had faced had fetched 49. She was eventually run out for a 45-ball 70. Two hours later, Rajeshwari Gayakwad knocked New Zealand out of the World Cup.

“If there was ever an innings that defined a player, this was it,” wrote Upendran.

“I would consider the 70 against New Zealand as a memorable one,” Veda later told us. “That innings was very crucial for us to get into the semi-final. That was our initial goal when we started our campaign. To have made sure that I played that innings which was very important, I think I would rate that the best.”

Unfortunately, it was an innings India barely followed in July and chose to forget by August.

Kadur and karate

Kadur, over two hundred kilometres from Bengaluru, is not quite your go-to place when you hunt for future international cricket stars. Till a few years back, Kadur was known — rightfully — for her natural beauty.

These days they refer to Kadur as the place Veda Krishnamurthy was born.

What were those early days like? To begin with, Veda was a natural at whatever she did, with a special affinity for sports. Being an extrovert helped as well; she became an active participant in whatever they organised at school.

Support also came from where it mattered most: “My parents have been really supportive in whatever I decided to do. I have been very lucky since I was young. I was raised as another son in my home.”

Karate happened roughly around this time. Her father SJ Krishnamurthy arranged for an instructor, but Veda was not sufficiently attracted towards martial arts. She preferred playing cricket with the boys in her colony, on the streets.

So Vatsala Shivakumar, Veda’s sister, had to intervene. Vatsala quickly realised that getting Veda into karate would not be easy, so she decided to do it the other way round. She talked to the mothers of the boys and convinced them to put their sons into karate.

“If I was the only one going for karate classes, I would not go and would end playing with the boys in the streets,” Veda admits today. Vatsala had left her with no choice: Veda had to choose between karate classes and afternoons full of nothingness. She chose the former, earned a double black belt by 12, and became a national champion in the 35-kg category.

But karate did more for her than she was aware of at this stage. It made her fitter and more flexible. Perhaps unknowingly, she was blossoming into the finest fielder in the world: “Those four years into karate had created a base for me when it comes to fielding. It helps me even now. I was athletic since a very young age. So it just helped me carry on with my fielding.”

All the same, at this stage of her life, she had not thought of taking to cricket as a profession.

Spoorthi and the school

Cricket did not come to Veda the conventional way. Let alone role models, Veda was not even an ardent follower of the sport. She was not even familiar with cricketers’ names, not “even in men’s cricket”. Her world of cricket revolved around, and was mostly limited to, playing with the boys — who accepted her as one of their own.

The talent soon became evident. Little Veda had to take a decision. While her parents continued to provide unconditional support, this was bigger than anything Veda had chosen till date: she had to shift base to Bangalore, for Kadur was no longer adequate to help her hone her skills.

What made it tougher was that Veda, then barely twelve-and-a-half, had to leave her family behind. She knew no one in the big city. She did not even have a place to stay. But then, she had Spoorthi Ramesh, a girl at the academy barely a year older to Veda. And at the request of coach Irfan Sait, Spoorthi — to the surprise of everyone — agreed to accommodate Veda.

“My parents were pretty surprised that a 13-year old did not take even five minutes to decide,” Veda recalls. What made it more remarkable was that Spoorthi’s parents were out of station at that time, and she was staying with a maid.

Veda’s parents were initially (and uncharacteristically) hesitant to agree to this arrangement. You really cannot blame them if you put yourself in their shoes: how can you leave your daughter in a big, unknown city with a girl of thirteen when her parents were not around?

But Veda had made up her mind, and when she does that, it is difficult, even impossible to get her to change her mind. Her parents had no option. They had to leave her with Spoorthi.

Spoorthi’s family took Veda in, their parents treating a little girl they did not know as a second daughter. They continue to remain family to her. “Everything took place smoothly as I met the right people at the right time,” Veda admits. It was as improbable a sequence of events as you can think of.

There were other hurdles as well. Veda’s school in Kadur followed the Karnataka State Board curriculum. However, Cambridge Public School, where she went to in Bangalore, was ‘under’ ICSE Board.

Thankfully, Cambridge Public was supportive. Attending classes was optional for Veda. The principal did not have a problem with Veda appearing for her annual examinations at a later date. She even stepped in when there were attempts to shift Veda to a State-Board school in Bangalore.

Support came from other quarters as well. Her teachers did not have a problem with her missing classes, and her friends helped her prepare for the tests. She was always made to feel welcome. The cooperation from peers continued till her college days…

The 2005-ers

While Veda was taking her first steps in the big city, the 2005-ers were taking Indian cricket by storm. India made it to the Women’s World Cup final for the first time, and while there was no telecast back home, the girls became stars overnight.

When the stars returned home, Karnataka Institute of Cricket (KIOC) decided to felicitate Mithali Raj, the captain, Nooshin Al Khadeer, and Karu Jain.

Veda had arrived at KIOC barely three weeks before that. However, the coach chose her, along with two others of that age, to present the trio with bouquets. While she had no idea who Mithali was, Veda was obviously excited at this sudden prospect. She did not even know about Karu, a name associated with Karnataka cricket for some time and someone Veda would get to know during her tenure at KIOC. No, she had never seen them play.

“All I knew was Mithali was a huge name, so I was really excited to meet her that day,” Veda confesses. Since Mithali was the biggest name of the three, Veda had to give her that bouquet — but then, that was precisely what the other girls had in mind as well.

Perhaps it was a coincidence, but the profiles of the three stars matched those of the three children. This gave Veda an idea. She approached the unsuspecting practitioner of off-breaks: “I am a batter. She [Mithali] is a batter as well. You are an off-spinner, so can give it to Noosh [Nooshin] while the other was a wicketkeeper and she could give the bouquet to Karu.”

Surprisingly, the others bought that logic. And Veda met Mithali for the first time. Their paths would cross many, many times in future.

The Mithali effect

Veda’s awe for Mithali is more or less known in Indian cricket. There were obviously other stars, but Mithali remained an influence to not only Veda, but to “anybody of her age”.

While Mithali was the star of the generation, Veda’s awe for her reached proportions matched by few. When they batted in adjacent nets, Veda had to be reminded by bowlers to get ready, for she had been too busy watching Mithali bat.

One of her most vivid memories dates back to a 2010-11 practice game. The Indian team was split into two, and Veda played for Mithali’s side. When she walked out to join her captain, they still needed another 60-odd runs.

Batting with Mithali had an impact on Veda that lingers even today: “The fact that I was batting with her was boosting my confidence. I would not shy off saying this even today that whenever she is around and I go to bat, I enjoy spending batting time with her. You get to learn a lot from her. Even the smallest things she says at the time of batting is spot on. She calms down the nerves of the other batter. It is very easy to bat along with her.”

That remains Veda’s greatest memory of her idol. She was so excited that she called almost everyone she knew to brag about the fact that she had batted with Mithali.

Veda with her idol and her friend

A post shared by Vanitha VR (@vanithavr) on

Friends and fielding

KIOC is no ordinary institute. Just the list of international cricketers graduated from KIOC makes impressive reading: David Johnson, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Karu Jain, Mamatha Maben, Nooshin Al Khadeer, Veda Krishnamurthy, and Vanitha VR. There are also numerous domestic cricketers — and a list of many who have trained here.

At the helm was Sait. For the uninitiated, few have done for women’s cricket in India as much as Sait. His contributions were not limited to coaching, either. When facilities were inadequate, Sait paid out of his own pocket — till BCCI took up the responsibility.

“The only thing he wanted was to give the right facilities for women,” Veda recalls. “He has done a lot for women’s cricket initially. Now he is the happiest person.”

Veda rubbed shoulders with Mamatha, Karu, and Nooshin, all seniors at KIOC as well as for Karnataka Women. Closer to her age-group was Vanitha, a girl who could hit the ball many a mile, with whom Veda shares what is “mostly like a love-hate relationship.”

Both Veda and Vanitha had aspirations of playing for India. They ended up doing exactly that several times, significantly in the 2016 World T20: Vanitha batting at the top and Veda in the middle-order…

They continue to remain friends of a different sort: “I know Vani since I started playing cricket. We share a very different bond. Sitting here I can tell what she is thinking and what she is up to. We abuse each other and yet most of the time we are together. Even today when we travel together for tournaments, we hang out after the match or practice sessions. It is always nice to have someone whom you know for a very long time in the team. It just gives you that extra cushion.”

What was a young Veda like? “We have played during the WIC days together and faced hardships together. Veda and Vanitha are level-headed,” remembers Mamatha. Despite being a superstar, a celebrity, she continues to remain down to earth, as Mamatha vouches for.

Veda acquired renown at this stage due to her fielding. The star-studded Karnataka line-up (Mamatha, Karu, Deepika Babu, Sindhu Ashok, to name a few) meant that she seldom got a chance to bat up the order, but fielding remained her USP.

She confessed unhesitatingly that she made it to the Karnataka senior team because of her fielding. “Since I was taken as a fielder in the team, it gave me an extra love for fielding because I always felt that it was fielding that helped me gain a place in the final XI.”

As the wait continued, Veda took to bowling leg-breaks. She often bowled the full quota for Karnataka Under-19, and even took 4 for 39 and 5 for 19 in two matches on consecutive days in 2007-08. But that maiden hundred in serious cricket remained elusive.

Hat-trick of hundreds

The first one came against Andhra Under-19s. Veda, by then captain of the side, walked out at 4 for 1. By the time she fell for an 81-ball 101 (with 15 fours), the score had reached a mere 141. The story did not end there, for Karnataka folded for 175.

Then Andhra were bowled out for 107, six more than Veda had scored. Of the first four wickets to fall, Veda had bowled one, caught one, and ran one out. Nobody else went past 18 in the entire match.

The one that followed 13 days later was even more special. First, this was senior cricket. Secondly, Niranjana Nagarajan was always a dangerous proposition on a difficult wicket. And thirdly, none of Veda’s teammates supported her.

Veda emerged at 32 for 4. Karnataka were bowled out for 170. Veda’s teammates left her stranded on a 111-ball 107 (10 fours, 3 sixes). Barring Sindhu Ashok (25), no one had scored more than 7. Veda followed this with 2 wickets and a catch, and Karnataka stole a thriller by 7 runs.

The Bengal match, 25 days after the Tamil Nadu one, followed a similar pattern. This was the most difficult of the three, for Bengal had posted 255 for 9 after being 107 for 9. Jhulan Goswami, nicely warmed up with a hundred, wrecked the top order.

Veda came out at 11 for 3. Her 101 took 118 balls. Karnataka, never in the hunt, finished on 171 for 8.

Karnataka had scored 516 runs in these three matches. Veda had scored 309 of these, a whopping 60%. Suddenly she was in national contention.

A year later, she would score another hundred, one she has fond memories of. Hyderabad had set Karnataka 154, and Veda decided to take things in her own hand, scoring 112 of these: “Hyderabad was a very good side then. We were chasing 160-odd and my coach approached me. I had to ensure my team qualified for the nationals. In Under-19 the score of 160 was a very good target then. I did not expect to get it single-handedly.”

At that stage, of course, expectations were higher from Veda, for she was already an international cricketer.

India colours

It all began with a delightfully simple text message: “Congrats, you are selected in the Indian team.” Veda later confessed that she did not expect a call-up that early in her life: she was 18.

What was it like? India did their homework before the England tour. The preparation camp at Bengaluru had helped the management decide on Veda’s role. She knew she would bat at five.

Veda failed in the T20Is that preceded the ODI tournament, but the management kept faith in her. The ODI tournament that followed was a difficult one: the other three teams — England, Australia, and New Zealand — have been the biggest names in women’s cricket for years.

Veda was the solitary debutant in India’s first match of the tournament, against England at Derby. It was not an easy debut for several reasons: first, she had not got going in the T20Is; playing England in England is always difficult; cricket under lights was never a common phenomenon in women’s cricket in India; and India had lost Anagha Deshpande and Mithali for ducks.

Veda walked out in the 31st over. It was similar to the World Cup innings she would play at the same ground six years down the line: “I knew I had to play according to the ball and spend some time on the crease. Frankly speaking, I did not expect to score a half-century that day. I just went with my instinct.”

Only Punam Raut (52) bettered Veda’s 51 that day. However, while Punam took 117 balls for her innings, Veda faced 57. She became the first Indian woman to score a fifty on ODI debut at the home of the opposition.

India reached 202 for 9. It was not enough to stop the English girls. They lost the other two matches as well, albeit by smaller margins.

At Chesterfield Australia chased down 216 against them, but only off the last ball. Veda got 14. And at Southgate New Zealand set India 202. India finished on 162 for 9; Veda’s 25 ended in a run out.

India pulled things back a bit in the third-place decider. Once again Punam (38) was the only one to outscore Veda (29). India reached only 150 but bowled out New Zealand for 118.

Finishing third out of four teams was not impressive, but India were up against the top three teams in the world. It was a decent series for Veda: she finished with 119 runs at 29.75, after only Punam and Harmanpreet Kaur.

Then things went horribly wrong. Her next 6 ODIs fetched her 31 runs at 6.20. She failed to reach double figures even once. She was dropped — and was not recalled for over three years.

A phoenix, reborn

“Once I reached the 50-run mark, people started having lot of expectations out of me. They felt I was talented and had the capability to become the next Mithali Raj,” confessed Veda.

Not for the only time in her career, Veda’s level-headedness came to her rescue. Instead of feeling aggrieved, she tried to figure out exactly what was going wrong.

“I was also a little matured then,” she smiled. “That was when I realised that playing for India is a dream but sustaining in that setup for a long time is difficult. I learned things the hard way then. When I made my comeback in 2015, I was very anxious and knew I had to perform well because it was do-or-die situation for me. I was fortunate that I overcame the low phase and could cement my place in the side.”

She made the necessary adjustments to fitness level and fielding skills as well. She knew fitness and fielding, more than anything else, set her apart from the others. Basic workout was no longer sufficient. The focus shifted to strength, which invariably meant more weight-training.

The results showed. The strokes, especially those booming cover-drives, started to race to the fence. By 2015 she was significantly stronger and quicker than what she used to be in 2012. She had transformed into your ideal limited-overs Gen-X cricketer: a power-hitter and an electric fielder.

Most importantly, she was hungrier for success: “It was only a matter of fact where I had to understand what my game was. There is a very thin line between knowing and not knowing about your game. Once you have clear idea about how you want to play, you can excel as a player. Initially I was not aware about what I was capable of. It was during those two years I took the effort to understand what I was capable of.”

The comeback, against New Zealand at Bengaluru, did not go as planned. Veda was claimed by Kasperek for 1. Jhulan’s 57 lifted India from 87 for 8 to 142 before New Zealand were bowled out for 125.

Veda was dropped for the second ODI (that India lost). When she was picked for the third, she was determined to prove a point.

The series was levelled 1-1. India were 57 for 3 when Veda walked out to join Mithali. What was going through her mind at that stage?

“If I had not done well in that game, it would have been the last series for me. To again earn a spot in the playing XI, it would have taken double the effort of what I now,” Veda confessed.

Mithali helped her ease into the circumstances. She convinced Veda against lofting the ball. By the time Mithali dismissed herself, Veda had got her eye in. Little Deepti Sharma played a good hand, scoring only 22 but helping Veda put up 71.

“Once I started getting the shots I gained all the confidence back,” Veda recalls. She hit Morna Nielsen ferociously for fours past point and mid-wicket; she took Sophie Devine for two fours in the 42nd over; and reached her fifty in the 46th over, off 77 balls.

She was finally run out in the last over, having already backed up at the non-striker’s end. She had scored 63 in a total of 182 for 9. India lost the match comfortably but came back to clinch the series.

That trademark Veda Krishnamurthy cover drive © Getty Images
That trademark Veda Krishnamurthy cover drive © Getty Images

“An innings close to my heart”

The 2015-16 tour of Australia was special in more ways than one. No Indian team had triumphed in a bilateral series in Australia. The women played in the afternoons on the same ground where the men played in the evening on the same day. In other words, two India versus Australia T20 International series took place on the same days at the same grounds.

Australia put up a formidable 140 for 5 in the first match at Adelaide. Mithali fell in the second over when India’s turn came. Veda walked out to join young Smriti Mandhana. Let alone at No. 3, Veda had never batted at No. 4 in international cricket at that point.

“When I learnt I will be batting at No. 3 a day before the match, I was shocked,” she recalled. She found encouragement from coach Purnima Rau — and from a legend.

As Mithali and Smriti prepared to stride out, Jhulan approached Veda: “Just go and play the way you always do. Do not play a submissive innings: go and attack. If it comes off, it will favour us. If it does not, well, just try your best.”

It was not a one-off incident. “Jhulan always backs us and is very supportive. If she feels a player has got the ability to make it large for the team, she ensures to back that player,” Veda told.

Veda was sufficiently buoyed when she walked out to bat. Of course, there was an early blow — that of Mithali’s wicket — to overcome. There were the twin responsibilities of marshalling the innings — she was the senior of the two girls out in the middle — as well as ensuring the asking rate did not mount.

Veda responded by counterattacking. “I just wanted to get the runs as quickly as possible,” she admits. She hit three consecutive fours off Grace Harris in the seventh over. And by the time she fell for a 32-ball 35, the target had come down to 67 runs from 49 balls. Harmanpreet and Anuja Patil ensured there were no hiccups.

“That innings is very close to my heart,” Veda maintains. It was not her greatest innings, but perhaps the most difficult and impactful of her career. Three days later Mithali became the first Indian captain to win a bilateral series in Australia, hours before MS Dhoni.

Veda rises

Veda scored a well-paced unbeaten 61 against Sri Lanka later that year. This was followed by a 24-ball 36 not out against Bangladesh and a 19-ball 24 against Pakistan in India’s unsuccessful Women’s World T20 campaign.

West Indies came later that year. They folded for 131 in the first ODI before reducing India to 36 for 4. Veda walked out and calmly sealed the match with an unbeaten 52, leaving Mithali stranded on 46.

That was the easier of the two. She emerged at 52 for 3 in the third match. The score read 103 for 4 when Harmanpreet fell. And a new responsibility fell upon Veda, for she now had to shepherd debutant Devika Vaidya.

Veda did to Devika what Mithali had done to her: “When Devika came to bat, I was very nervous because it was her first game and she is a youngster. The first and second delivery that she faced, a catch was dropped. I advised her to not score runs and give the strike to me as much as possible. After two more deliveries she stepped out and played through the covers. I realised she was here to play. That shot boosted my confidence. I immediately advised her to play the shots she likes and not to give second thought.”

Familiar, is it not, to the many Mithali-Veda partnerships?

As for the match, India reached 199 for 6 before Rajeshwari spun out West Indies for 184. Two days later Veda scored a 46-ball 50 in a T20I.

Ecstasy and heartbreak

Veda smashed 31 in 27 balls during the chase in the final of the 2017 World Cup qualifier against South Africa. That innings got buried under the crucial fifties of Mona and Deepti Sharma and the heroics of Harmanpreet.

Harmanpreet and Veda added 38 in 37 balls that day. Five months later they got together to pull off yet another mini-partnership. Veda waited in the dugout as Harmanpreet delivered a blow unrivalled by an Indian in a World Cup knockout match.

As Harmanpreet sent the balls spiralling into the orbit, Veda was busy practising dance moves, even influencing Mithali for a while…

Veda came to her elements once her turn came. Harmanpreet dominated the stand, but she played her part, and the pair added an unbroken 43 in 22 balls, Veda scoring a 10-ball 16, nudging ones and twos and getting two fours. Australia were knocked out.

Before that, of course, she had played that innings against New Zealand, the one that had defined her more than any other — but then, we have already discussed that in detail.

The target in the final, 229, was well within reach. Smriti fell for a duck and Mithali was run out early (in bizarre fashion), but Punam and Harmanpreet brought things under control. India needed 91 runs in 99 balls when Harmanpreet fell. The match was theirs to lose.

The roles were obvious. Veda would keep the asking rate under control. Punam would anchor the innings. And they proceeded.

Veda started by dispatching Laura Marsh past mid-off. And when Alex Hartley was dismissed through cover, India took note — wasn’t this an indication that she was in ominous form?

She almost lost her wicket when she holed out to Heather Knight at cover. The catch popped out inexplicably, just like that. Thus reprieved, she opened up, unhesitatingly lofting Shrubsole off consecutive balls for fours through off.

With 39 needed from 46, there was no way India could lose. Shrubsole did get her revenge when she trapped Punam leg-before later in that over, but India were definitely on top.

Veda put to rest whatever doubt was left off the first ball of the next over, off Hartley. It was almost inevitable, that shot: she stepped out and made that angular movement towards leg, making room, and sent it over extra-cover. Yes, the Veda Krishnamurthy shot.

She lost Sushma Verma, but India needed 29 from 33, and Deepti was around…

Then Shrubsole bowled one outside off, at reduced pace. Was there a rush of blood? Was the cross-batted heave over mid-wicket predetermined? “I wanted to finish the game as quickly as possible. I just kept backing myself to play the shot and it did not turn out to be the way it was expected to,” Veda explained.

Shrubsole had probably anticipated the Veda way of going about chases. She had possibly baited Veda into going after her. She was confident that Veda, a naturally aggressive batter, would go for the kill. And Natalie Sciver, much to the despair of Veda and her fans back home, did not spill the catch.

Would she have played the same shot, had she had another chance? “I would have definitely chosen a better delivery to play that shot. When I saw the replay I knew it was not meant to be played that way.”

A mere 9 runs separated India from the title.

Of work ethics

Unlike batting and bowling, where one can gauge quality from scorecards, fielding (especially ground fielding) is nearly impossible to judge without actually watching the sport. The general aloofness of broadcasters towards women’s cricket had thus left the fans unaware of Veda’s brilliance.

The catch that made Veda an instant star was of Asmavia Iqbal, caught off Ekta Bisht in the 2016 Asia Cup. Seldom has Indian cricket boasted of someone who could make slip catches look so nonchalantly easy: Veda did not even consider stooping till Ekta had released the ball; Asmavia, in an effort to cut, almost middled the ball; and Veda, never bothering to get on to her haunches, simply flung herself to her right and came up with a catch millimetres off the ground.

Asmavia was left predictably flummoxed.

Once again, there was no telecast back home. Veda herself had to tweet it for her countrymen.

But slip is not the only position Veda has mastered. She used to be a specialist slip fielder, but the demands of limited-overs cricket have pushed her to the edge of the 30-yard circle. She is equally agile at cover and mid-wicket, and as the overs progress, she retreats even further, to the fence.

Even when she is not a part of the XI, she is the automatic choice as substitute fielder, and she invariably stands up to the challenge, as she did in the league match against England in the 2017 World Cup. When Anya Shrubsole went for an almighty heave, Veda sprinted in from deep mid-wicket and covered many a yard before flinging herself forward to come up with an outstanding catch.

Veda acknowledges the importance of hard work when it comes to fielding. She insists on building a muscle memory: “One cannot really train to take good catches. It all depends on that spur of moment. You cannot replicate anything. It is important to take a certain number of catches when you practise every day. It helps your body get adjusted accordingly. It requires not extra efforts while fielding in the match. It just comes naturally.”

She assigns a similar success mantra to the cover-drive. As mentioned above, opportunities to bat up the order were scant in that star-studded batting Karnataka line-up. For Veda (and Vanitha), team practice sessions in those days were invariably restricted mostly to fielding. They got to face about fifty balls a day in the nets.

The bowling coach also wanted the duo to practice the cover-drive, making them go through the shot a thousand times a day, for two months. They hated the process, but years later, Veda is grateful: “Thanks to those sessions, mine and Vani’s cover-drives are technically perfect.”

No, no one in international cricket can combine the elegance of Mithali and the power of Meg Lanning in the cover-drive the way Veda can. It is not easy to combine correctness, grace, and power in one stroke.

The signature inside-out shot over cover, on the other hand, comes naturally to her: “I never practised that shot. It was a shot that I started playing and people recognised it. I capitalised more on it and it came off naturally.”

Superstars: past, present and future

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What lies ahead?

Despite the final disappointment, the World Cup campaign had come off well for India. What waited back home had, however, surpassed all expectations.

“We never expected such warm reception,” Veda admitted. “We were pretty surprised to be received with so much love. It is a new beginning for women’s cricket in India and people now wants to watch more of us.”

As for the fans, Veda takes to social media, where the lighter side peeps through. Labelled both ‘selfie queen’ and ‘joker of the pack’ by teammates, it was obvious that she would. However, while she uses social media to unwind, there is also an effort to “get to know what people think about me”.

Australia and England have both launched franchise-based T20 leagues for women. While Women’s IPL does not seem feasible in near future, Veda is enthusiastic about opportunities in both tournaments. “It will help me grow as a player,” she says, “but at the same time it is not the ultimate goal.”

One wonders what the ultimate goal is. Winning a World Cup for India? A Test match? More, perhaps?