Cricket is a field that men have dominated since time immemorial. Giving them tough competition and showing their prowess, are these two talented former women cricketers now coaches from the city of Bengaluru. They have come to the fore with their dedication, and are taking strides with their respective school cricket teams. Taking inspiration from women greats in the past, and Smriti Mandhana who recently won the ICC Women’s Cricketer and ODI Player of the year award, coaches, Lakshmi V Kumar from Mallya Aditi International School and Lakshmi Hariharan from Sri Kumaran’s Children’s Home have sprung up from the bottom of the table to the first division of the Under-16 Inter-School Boy’s Cricket Tournament organised by the Karnataka State Cricket Association. That their respective teams have risen, and are on their way to take a shot at the prestigious Under-16 inter-school boys title next season (2019-20) is a welcome progression for women in cricket.
When a woman takes up the role of a coach, she is not only daring to follow her dreams but also challenging norms. These two women have proved yet again that you either perform or perish, irrespective of whether you are a man or a woman.
Batting for the brave
Lakshmi V Kumar, who was earlier a part of the Karnataka State Team, has been one of the only two women coaches selected in a team of 30 coaches by the KSCA. Now, as coach for the boys cricket team of Mallya Aditi International School, she says, “My journey as a coach started 17 years ago, and I absolutely love it. I have coached over 10,000 students and it feels good to be one among the few women who could actually follow their passion (in cricket). I’m grateful to the people who believed in me, to train students in a sport that men have ruled. Our team from Mallya Aditi has been performing excellently, and got promoted to the first division of the KSCA Cup. It is big deal for us, and we are not stopping. We will work hard to do well and bag the Cup.”
The 36-year-old former batsman Lakshmi understand the challenges the career she has chosen poses, and gives credit to her husband for supporting her, without which, she believes, she wouldn’t be able to follow her heart. She has a seven-year-old daughter who is into sports, and thoroughly enjoys football, swimming, skating, badminton and cricket.
On the challenges she, as a woman faces, Lakshmi says, “There are very few women coaches and it is hard for many to take us seriously. But at the end of the day, what matters is one’s passion and dedication towards the sport. Once they see what you are capable of, there is nothing stopping you!”
All-rounder, leg spinner, now coach
Lakshmi Hariharan works as a cricket coach at Sri Kumaran’s Children’s Home. She is a keen follower of Shantha Rangaswamy (a cricketer who played women’s test cricket for India in 16 matches from 1976-1991). Lakshmi was convinced that cricket was her passion after Kapil Dev’s Indian team won the World Cup in 1983. “I used to play cricket in my backyard initially, with my father and his brothers, and then with my siblings and cousins. I started at the age of eight, and have played for the state for the first time at the age of 15. My first crude exposure to coaching was when I was 16. Our college coach was leaving, and some of us had to take care of the newcomers. My actual experience started in 2008 when the Singapore Cricket Association asked me to assist the Singapore national U-19 team coach for the ACC tournament,” says the 43-year-old coach, a former all-rounder and leg spinner.
She accompanied the U-16 girls team as a coach for the KSCA in 2013 and continues to do so.
Letting us in on her journey with the boys of Kumaran’s, she says, “I helm the U-14 and U-16 boys. I started in Kumaran’s during the 2014-2015 seasons. Ever since I started off in the school, I have had tremendous support from the principal Deepa Ma’am and the team of boys whom I train with. Although, it was a little difficult in the beginning, the boys soon adapted to a lady coach and started to trust my ability and judgement. The third season as a coach, we were joint winners of the KSCA U-14 BTR Cup in second division and we were promoted to the first division. This year, we are the second division champions of the KSCA Cup for U-16s, and we won all the games that we have played during the league and knock-out stages. We are now promoted to the first division. I have to admit that the current set of boys have put in a huge amount of effort to achieve the results that we see today.”
“My parents are in Bangalore. I have a younger sister and brother who are both married. My extended family includes a couple of my friends and students,” says the woman with a masters degree in Biochemistry and certification in Epidemiology who was involved in vaccine clinical research for 16 years. She loves reading, photography and listening to old Hindi songs....