Vanitha VR during her England tour in 2014 Photo Courtesy: Vanitha's Facebook Profile
Vanitha VR during her England tour in 2014 Photo Courtesy: Vanitha’s Facebook Profile

Vellaswamy Ramu Vanitha, born July 19, 1990, took the shortest format of cricket by storm with the power of hitting every ball out of the park. Bouncing back into the Indian side for her knock in the T20 international series against New Zealand in 2015, Vanitha has combined power and elegance to make her one of the most attractive batters in contemporary Indian cricket. A victor against all odds, Vanitha s story remains one of the tales to inspire the upcoming Women cricketers. In an exclusive interview with Shruti Hariharan, Vanitha speaks about her struggles in the initial cricketing days, her journey to India Women, a much-needed comeback, and her passion for yoga and Orgobliss.

At M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on July 2015, Vanitha had a monumental task in hand. Not only was she asked to open with her idol Mithali Raj, but she was also battling to play that one resonant innings at her backyard that would save her career.

Before we get into that, let us rewind to January 2014. Vanitha was shaken by the single-digit scores coming her way 6, 4, 7, 8 since her T20I debut. As she recalled, there was an axe on my head.

Where were we? Yes, Mithali and Vanitha were out to bat. Suzie Bates got the better of Mithali in the first over, for 1. When Latika Kumari also made her way back to the pavilion, Vanitha was accompanied by India s saviour Harmanpreet Kaur.

Vanitha got valuable support from Harmanpreet (47) and Veda Krishnamurthy (37), but the White Ferns squeezed the life of the Eves. Even Jhulan Goswami tried her best to keep the energy flowing with a 28-run stand with Vanitha. However, successive wickets restricted India to 136. Vanitha ended as the top-scorer with 78-ball 41.

India eventually lost by 6 wickets. Rachel Priest overshadowed Vanitha with her knock of 60, but Vanitha s comeback definitely grabbed eyeballs of the national selectors. A huge burden was off her shoulders: I was going through a lot mentally. I really had to perform. That innings got my true character out of me. After that I was grown in confidence. We also had the World Cup coming up.

She claims this to be her most memorable innings. Indeed, a much-needed one. However, was the road really easy for the 27-year-old?

The first hiccup

The key ingredients South Indian families try to inculcate since childhood in their children are typically the same: flawless academics, a secured life and continue to please the society.

Vanitha had similar encounters at the initial stage. With sisters Kavitha, Aishwarya and brother Suresh all into conventional academics, hers was a herculean choice to make: It was not an easy choice for me. Also coming from a family who are not from city, the kind of associates and relatives we had, it was pretty tough for me to choose cricket.

Yet, Vanitha opted for cricket and stuck to her decision. She went for practice sessions. Of course, this had its downside: once a school topper, she slowly started losing interest in studies.

Thankfully, her father V Ramu was a cricket enthusiast, as was brother Suresh. Sundays invariably involved them stepping out to play gully cricket. A curious Vanitha ended up joining them every now and then: and that was how cricket happened to her.

Vanitha looked forward to Sundays the way a child looks forward for summer vacations after exams: I just loved hanging out with my brother and father. Watching them bat, I thought even I ll play some cricket and spend my Sunday with them. So that sort of interested me in this game.

But her mother had other plans. Once she became aware of the distractions she was facing, Vanitha s parents decided to halt her cricket career for a secured future: There was a time where my parents were so strict that they did not want me to get out of the house for practice. I had lost focus on my academics and studies. I literally used to go and beg to them. They were reluctant as they felt I would roam about in the guise of practice. But honestly, I used to do that only after practice…

Of course, she found ways to convince them, even it meant pleading and crying: I was adamant in what I really wanted and end of the day I had to convince them. I had to cry and assure them that I just want to play cricket and not going to repeat the mistake. Since, I came back on track and I had to take a decision. That was the time I gave up on a lot of things.

But it was not all hunky-dory for Vanitha even then. Challenges continued to bog her down. While men s cricket is a glamorous concept, a girl stepping out in a helmet with a bat in hand is still not popular. Vanitha s rendezvous with reality began.

The first challenge was to overcome her parents: There was stereotyping even at home. My mother wanted me to focus on academics. She was surrounded with set of friends who went your child is playing cricket; do you think that is going to give her a secured job or life? My mother used to get upset.

And it was not just at home, either: gully cricket was not an easy task. At 8 she played with 20-year-old boys.

Vanitha learnt the art of challenging abuses with hard work: I was being abused. During a match I failed to put bat to ball. A boy called me a loafer [lazy]. That triggered something inside me. I took it as a challenge. I focused harder and tried to connect every ball. It was too quick for me that time. To cope up with that I really had to put in a lot of efforts. I used to go home and ask my brother to throw the ball at me. I used to annoy my brother just to practice how to connect the ball.

Abuses, check. Stereotyping, check. However, the biggest challenge arrived when Vanitha had to give up on her teenage days a challenge for someone as fun-loving as her. She had to cut down on socialising and hanging out with friends. It was all more difficult, for Bengaluru is known for its party-life.

However, between cricket and teenage cravings, Vanitha chose an option that she has no regrets about: Honestly, there were times I have felt very sad when I was in my teenage days thinking I have taken this up, now what? I do not lead a normal life like others, do not get to go out, I do not socialise. My friends and siblings had a different life completely.

But it was just a phase. It used to stay for only a couple of days. I know I had a purpose in the head. Every time I felt that feeling, it took a while for me to beat them and I was back to my track. I had to take a lot of conscious efforts to keep those thoughts away.

But amidst all this, there was one person who backed her constantly. That man helped her defy all odds and overcome the struggles…

Daddy strongest

You are my inspiration!! #tributetofathersday

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While Vanitha had no support from mother, relative and associates, there was one man who knew the importance of the cricket in her life: V Ramu had inculcated the values of independence in his kids at a tender age.

Vanitha recites a very interesting incident from her childhood: At a very young age he used to give me bike and allow me to explore. Even before I was 13 or 14 years he had taught me how to drive. He is very adventurous. He always wanted us to be on our own and not be dependent on anyone.

V Ramu allowed Vanitha to be herself and explore new opportunities in life. In fact, it was he who took her to Karnataka Institute of Cricket (KIOC) when she was 11: My father always supported me. Financially I did not have a problem in terms of playing cricket. He has actually never kept a track of what I do. He is not right at me or behind me. However, he has always given us strength and confidence. That self-belief is something he had developed in all of us. He brought me to KIOC. After that, it became more of a professional route for me.

Even when Vanitha was bullied during gully cricket days, her father taught her the ways to face up to them: I really appreciate the fact that my father stood by me. He gave us a lot of courage to do many things.

After series of gully, school and training for cricket, it was time for someone to shake Vanitha and make her realise that she had the material to be part of the Indian team…

From school bully to Indian cricketer:

As Vanitha had told us, she was not much into academics and studies. However, she was quite popular student at school, Seventh Day Adventist. Her classmates acknowledged her cricketing skills and even played with her during PT classes.

And yet, some continued to tarnish her image: I was the only female cricketer in the school. That made me famous. I also used to get along with boys and play cricket during our PT hours. However, there were always some boys who were typically stereotyping that girls are only made for volleyball. Somewhere I had to battle with my schoolmates. At every stage I had to prove that I can play cricket better than them. Every time I got the chance I used to hit the ball out of the ground or into the classrooms. That gave me a lot of confidence.

That led to Vanitha spending more time with boys. She chuckled, admitting that there are hardly any girl friends around her, which she considers to be a positive aspect in life: I have grown up with guys. There is never a time I am with girls. That is probably one of the reasons I have traits common with men. When it comes to emotional aspects I think like them at times. It has been sort of easy to get going with men. That has sort of helped me in terms of competition and aggression.

Vanitha with her KIOC coach Irfan Sait who honed her cricketing skills in the early days Photo Courtesy: Vanitha's Facebook Profile
Vanitha with her KIOC coach Irfan Sait who honed her cricketing skills in the early days Photo Courtesy: Vanitha’s Facebook Profile

Behind honing Vanitha s cricketing skills is her KIOC coach Irfan Sait: Actually, more than me, it was my coach and teammates who believed that I had the material to play for India. He has been of immense support. Whatever I am today is because of him.

She continued: There was point when my parents wanted to me to stop cricket. He [Seth] was the one who really convinced my parents to continue and pursue it. He was there for me even if it is at 6 in the morning or 9 at night. He was always just a call away. He was the one who believed that I could go on to play higher levels of cricket.

The real journey began when Vanitha started to believe she had the calibre to play for the Indian Eves. It did include a few sacrifices, but it was worth it in the end: At the age of 18 or 19 I felt I belonged to this and should play higher levels of cricket. Then I started working really hard. What I was doing earlier was not sufficient enough to get what I desired. That was the time I had to shift and alter my lifestyle, my work ethics, my practice and my fitness levels. Change did not happen overnight. It took time.


Vanitha finally made it to the Indian team, leaving behind those dramatics of begging and pleading with her parents. However, the nerves got better of her on debut: she was dismissed for nought off the second delivery.

It was the final ODI against Sri Lanka at Visakhapatnam on January 23, 2014. Anagha Deshpande and Smriti Mandhana provided the start but were unable to build them to big scores. The responsibility fell on Mithali and Harmanpreet. They did add a solid stand of 57 runs before Harmanpreet was caught by Osadhi Ranasinghe.

Mithali, on the other hand, scored an unbeaten century while Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Sneh Rana and Poonam Yadav handled the task with ball leading to 95-run victory.

Vanitha was disappointed after her first stint. However, thanks to encouragement from seniors, she was motivated to do better in the next game: After the match, I clearly remember Mithali coming and telling me I felt so bad. I wanted come and hug you when you got out. That was a very nice gesture from a senior and a legendary player. There were also other seniors in the team like Amita Sharma and Jhulan. Amita came up to me and said, All great people start with 0. So do not worry. It happens. Just keep giving your best. She keeps backing me. Jhulu also brings out the aggression in me.

But every person has to walk over thorns to experience this journey called life. Vanitha kept working harder. Her confidence, never-say-die attitude kept her hopes alive.

Lean Patch

Vanitha made her debut for Karnataka Women in 2006 Photo Courtesy: Vanitha's Facebook Profile
Vanitha made her debut for Karnataka Women in 2006 Photo Courtesy: Vanitha’s Facebook Profile

Vanitha made her debut for Karnataka Women in 2006. She started her journey with a score of 16 as opener. It was followed by few single-digit scores in 2007. At times she did not get an opportunity to bat.

In December 2007 she finally emerged as a match-winner for her Under-19 state team. She also had her childhood friend Veda on the same side. Chasing a target of 158 against Goa, Vanitha held her fort and sped to an unbeaten 84-ball 89.

This turned out to be a watershed year for Vanitha. She had a decent outing with her maiden unbeaten 139 against Tamil Nadu U-19 in the same month. It was followed by scores of 37, 40, 49*, 42, 40 in 2008. She was now as consistent as she had ever been.

Yet, the national selectors turned a blind eye. Vanitha recalled the moment where she felt it was time to bid adieu to cricket: I think it was in 2008 where I had a good U-19 season. But when I came back I was made to sit out the entire season in the senior cricket. I kept asking myself: Why am I playing? Who wants to do all this? That is one instance where I really felt I wanted to quit.

During this period, her close friend and state-mate Karu Jain showed immense faith on Vanitha. She instilled new fitness ethics in her to bring her back on track. Karu was no mean player herself: she had started her career with an unbeaten 68 as opener against West Indies Women in 2004; the following year her hundred had helped India beat England Women.

However, Karu had her share of hardships as well. She was not part of the team from 2008 to 2013, but she did come back. Karu s battle prompted Vanitha to continue to fight.

The trend continued. In 2011 the selectors decided to pick some outstanding players in the side like her close friend MD Thirushkamini, who was then playing for Tamil Nadu. Vanitha recollects those days: Again, after three years in 2011, I was consistent yet was ignored by the national selectors. That time I felt I should just give up and focus on my career. I was studying law. I thought I have another career option: why waste my time here? That was one stage where I really wanted to give up cricket. I was also suffering from a back injury. I had a stress fracture on my back. There were days I used to take 4 or 5 painkillers. That was a very painful period for me. I used to come back with tears in my eyes. Whenever I peeled out the plaster my skin used to come off along with that. Looking at all this, I felt like giving up on cricket, she grieved.

However, senior players like Mithali and Jhulan continued to shower faith on the youngster. They provided constant guidance to Vanitha from time to time: There was a time during my rehab stage where I met Mithali and Jhulan. They wanted to know what was wrong. I told them the whole story. I also had brief conversations with them regarding my injury. With these two greats talking to me I felt motivated. I credit them a lot for that conversation. I finally found the motivation.

Amidst all this chaos, Vanitha did get through the Women s team in 2014, The moment I got picked, Irfan had tears of joy in his eyes. I could not feel it in my parents but I could see it in his eyes. That is something I will cherish. That moment will last forever.

Where she is more a vital cog in the T20Is, ODIs is still a format that Vanitha is looking to seal the spot.

Vanitha s adversity found no end. Her performance in T20 World Cup was a forgettable one.

When she returned for the West Indies T20 series, her innings left a mental scar on the mind. Things became worse when she was benched for the Asia Cup T20 tournament.

The feeling of quitting cricket that cropped up six years ago slowly started creeping back on her mind: I took a break and went off for a couple of days. I was down as I had not given my best. Though people still backed me, there were few things that hit me so hard that I actually went off from my normal routine and went out of Bengaluru as well, just to get my thoughts together.

There was no motivation for her to stay in this field, except for a decent domestic career. In the calendar year 2016-17, Vanitha has assimilated 359 runs overall in the domestic circuit.

It reached a point where she needed guidance on moving to the next step. She had to fight her thoughts. Then Dr Shree Advani happened to Vanitha. His inspirational training changed her track: After the break, things just turned around for me. I had a mental coach with whom I worked a lot. He really helped me to move over this phase. While we have physical trainers and coaches, I think this game is of a mental side. You need to sharpen that aspect as well. I started believing that I needed to have one. That is when Shree Advani helped me shape up and get me back on track.

Overcoming mental test can do wonders. We see people giving up on their lives just because things do not work as per their wants or aspiration. This time Vanitha looked more than determined and announced her comeback…

The perfect comeback

Far away from all the mental disarray, Vanitha decided to make the zonal tournament the larger podium of her life.

Vanitha might have had a quiet West Indies series, but she ensured her comeback was loud enough, The one month that I had at home, I worked hard and tried to modify on my technical aspects. That helped me. I started working on my fitness as well. I had to pull myself to last longer. Since it is multi-zonal tournament, I felt fitness will play a crucial role. Rajni, my trainer, helped me a lot with my fitness. I believed that the fitter I get, the better I can perform. Things fell in place for me.

She did not start well. Pushed down the order, she scored 9 and 0. Then the team management decided to promote her at the top. That produced instant result: she smashed a century off 98 balls that included 16 fours and 3 sixes.

Veda was her opponent this time, as was Deepti Sharma. Vanitha struggled to get to 40, but after that there was no stopping her. She hit the sixes so hard that they would have cleared 70 metres. South Zone were crushed by the Central Zone bowlers as the top five batters perished for 6, 4, 1, 0, and 2. Vanitha fell sixth, for 109.

The Central Zone comprised of not just Deepti but also Poonam, Ekta Bisht and Rajeshwari; in other words, they had an attack as good as any. It was not an easy hundred.

Vanitha continued her battle in the tournament where she top-scored in every match. However, the fact that her inconsistencies hit her international career is still one of the aspects she wants to touch up on.

Yoga: the new fitness mantra

If there is anything that helps Vanitha to strive hard to reach the Indian team, it is yoga. Browse through her social media account, and you will receive all answers regarding her new fitness mantra.Interestingly, her guru is none other than elder sister Kavitha: My sister being a yoga instructor makes it easier. I told her I do not want to do yoga the way most people do. I wanted a cricket- or sport-specific yoga. We planned accordingly, especially on my lack of flexibility.

Miss my yoga sessions with guru @kavithakirankumar #yogalove

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She is still helping me with that. My breathing has gone better. I believe your thought process gets better through yoga. These things can get me back on track and get me going. So I am pretty much focused in terms of my fitness routine now.

Vanitha brought up another interesting aspect into light: If there is a huge difference between us and other teams, it is in fitness and fielding. That is playing a major part. It is not the skills or batting or bowling: it is fitness. We are lacking in fielding, giving away extra runs. These are the things we need to get better at. Even Mr Sunil Gavaskar told us the only difference I see between you and other teams is fitness. That is one of the reasons I am so committed towards my fitness.

Three pillars of the Indian Eves

India Women have scaled new heights under their three pillars Mithali, Jhulan and Harmanpreet (who she affectionately refers to as Veere the warrior). Vanitha is one of the fortunate ones to play under all of them. The trio have captained and continued to lead the side in different formats of the game.

Vanitha s insights on their individual leadership styles were illuminating: They are very different as leaders. Mithali is very calm and composed. Even when you are batting with her, the kind of calmness and vibe she spreads around is amazing. Harman is very aggressive. She is someone who leads from the front. Jhulan is a performer. She and Harman are pretty similar, but Harman is more aggressive in terms of international load. I would compare her to Virat Kohli in terms of thinking and aggression.

Last year, India Women cricket saw a transitional phase when Harmanpreet became the first Indian Woman to be picked by a Women s BBL franchise, Sydney Thunder. Smriti also participated, as part of Brisbane Heat.

Harmanpreet has built a global image for herself, thanks to WBBL. Some jaw-dropping sixes won her many supporters at global level, one of them being Adam Gilchrist.

Vanitha believes it is Harmanpreet s aggression and attacking game that has taken her to the next level: Ever since Harman started, she was known for her attacking game. The way she talks is amazing. It peps you up. Every time she walks out she gives her heart and soul to the game. That is the best thing I like about her. That is probably why she is so successful. Those big shots I saw in BBL were unbelievable. These are the things that speak volumes about our Indian cricket as well.


Let us go back to that thrilling final over of the World Cup Qualifier final against South Africa where India s chase to 245 boiled down to 9 off 6 in the last over.

Harmanpreet dragged the first ball towards deep mid-wicket. She lost her partner Poonam for 7 in pursuit of a second run. Rajeshwari joined her for the final leg.

Rajeshwari hung around, who later faced successive dot balls from Marcia Letsoalo. With 8 needed off the last 2 balls, Harmanpreet sealed it with a six and a two off to top the World Cup Qualifiers. Rajeshwari earlier had a great outing combining forces with Shikha Pandey to claim 5 for 92 to reduce South Africa to 244 all this, in absence of Mithali and Jhulan!

Vanitha, who saw the innings, felt it was a captain s knock: If you see that innings, it was more of a responsibility. She knew she was the only one who could do it. Only Harman could have rotated the strike like that. She believes a lot in herself. The way she is going about in cricket, she will be breaking most of the records down the line. The way she is batting now and is fully focused towards it, the extra responsibility of captaincy is bringing the best out of her.

Vanitha has been associated with team India for three years. Over years the team has witnessed several new faces. Yet, she credits the trinity for binding the team together: Right after the 2013 World Cup there was this new team that came under radar. Everyone had to be patient. Harman, Mithali and Jhulan played crucial roles knowing they were the senior most.

Women s cricket s upward progress

Of late, women s cricket has gained the stature it deserves. However, it is yet to reach the level of men s cricket. Recently, Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry travelled Bus Route No. 19 in London to promote Women s Ashes 2017-18. The series will be held in Australia this year and will feature first-ever Day-Night Test at Sydney Oval.

T20 leagues across the globe assist in the growth of Women s cricket, especially after the success of WBBL and England s Women s Cricket Super League. When India hosted the T20 World Cup last year, the buzz was audible.

Vanitha feels that T20 leagues could be the next big thing but emphasised on longer format as well: T20 grabs eyeballs. In T20 cricket you can play fancy shots, which attracts viewers. But again, you cannot keep away the longer format, the actual form of the game. T20 is more convenient: it is easy for people to get entertained. In terms of promoting the game you need to play a lot of T20 cricket, which is when you can have a lot of followers.

Since the time ICC has started organising Women s cricket, there has been an upward progress. The ICC Women World Cup 2013 in India was broadcast in as many as 144 territories across 28 channels. The viewership of the event in India alone went up from 3 million in 2009 to 13 million four years later in 2013, as reported on ICC s official website.

Vanitha stressed on the importance of telecast that could help to promote Women s cricket to larger audience: I think telecast of live matches will bring in lot of awareness. In fact, that is the only way. It started off from the Australia series where matches were telecast live and we played on the same days as the men. Since then a lot of people have been recognising the players. It was only since January 2016 that viewers have started following us. Until then people hardly knew who we were apart from, of course, Harman, Mithali and Jhulan.

The equipment’s and facilities provided today to India Women are way ahead, thanks to technology and also BCCI. Vanitha recalls the horror days of the past: We have travelled in pantry cars, in unreserved compartments, with toilets near our seats in trains; we have had very tough days. However, since BCCI has taken control, things have gone better. Now is the right time to play. Now it is lot more professional.

A student and an entrepreneur

There is more to Vanitha than those towering sixes. She used to be a bright student before taking up cricket: I was actually pretty good in my academics till 8th standard. The minute I joined cricket I got distracted. Being a girl, I thought cricket would take care of me. Somewhere that belief was what kept me going. It was a tough choice, to be honest. My sister and brother were into academics. I did not have choice but just be with them and study.

She went on to study law. Yes, you read that right. Managing teenage days between cricket as well as law was indeed a daunting task. She studied at CMR Law School as well as MS Ramaiah College, about 40 km from her home.

But then, we may have a lawyer in the Indian squad soon! I gave up in the final year. I told my parents that I wanted to stop going to college because I wanted to do two sessions of cricket a day. I used to spend 6 to 7 hours on the field. That paid for me. Studies have never been difficult for me. I used to study just one or two days before the exams and clear them. I have not given my exams after my final year, but now that I have time, I will appear for it during in June and July.

Orgobliss was started by Vanitha and her brother Suresh in 2014 to spread awareness on organic products Photo Courtesy: Vanitha's Facebook profile
Orgobliss was started by Vanitha and her brother Suresh in 2014 to spread awareness on organic products Photo Courtesy: Vanitha’s Facebook profile

There is even more. To revive and spread awareness of the organic products, Vanitha and her brother Suresh launched Orgobliss in 2013. Yes, she is an entrepreneur as well.

Not all products have been made available as of now, but they have started off with organic fruits. When I scrolled through the list of products on offer, I could not resist asking about the company more: We started it three years back when we realised there was lack of awareness in terms of organic foods. Not many are aware, but our agriculture used to be full of organic products. Due to scarcity of demand and supply, people had to get into conventional farming and started using pesticides.

We are into fruits right now. We are doing really well. It is important we consume the right kind of fruits. For me, my diet has to be spot on. I consume only organic food, which is making a lot of difference.


After some serious discussions, I decided to have one-on-one with Vanitha. Some answers were hilarious while some were fascinating.

Vanitha reveals her secrets:

Favourite book: Inner Engineering by Sadhguru

Favourite movie: Queen of Katwe by Mira Nair

Holiday destination: Leh-Ladakh (for the adventure in her)

Proudest moment: When her parents saw her playing on the television the first time

Embarrassing moment: Getting out for a duck (she chuckles)

Bowler she fears the most? Heather Knight. Vanitha has been dismissed by Heather twice in her career.

Favourite social media platforms: Twitter and Instagram

Trivia on the Indian Eves:

Best buddy: Thirushkamini, whom she calls a Woman of Steel especially after her 192 against South Africa Women in 2014

The nerd: Shikha Pandey

Selfie Queens: Veda Krishnamurthy, Mona Meshram and Sushma Verma

Style Icons: Mithali Raj, her role model and idol. Vanitha did not have any hesitation in mentioning her own name either!

Jokers of the pack: Harmanpreet, Veda and Sushma Verma

Favourite cricketer: Not Virat Kohli or MS Dhoni but Ricky Ponting: Vanitha has watched him play since childhood.

Favourite sports persons outside cricket: Roger Federer and Serena Willaims


India Women will now begin their journey towards the mega event, the Women s World Cup. They are already off the mark by winning the Quadrangular series in South Africa comfortably. One can only imagine what lies ahead during the big tournament.

Vanitha concluded the interview with a very special message to the Indian eves, The girls are shaping up really well. I know that they will do well. Now that we are going early, a week or ten days before the World Cup, that itself is a big preparation. We have played all the teams. We know their strengths and weaknesses. That will help us in terms of strategising. The new coach [Tushar Arothe] is doing very well. I am excited to see how the girls will shape up. I am sure success is on the cards.