From a home inaccessible by road to having a junction dedicated in her name, it’s been an arduous yet fulfilling journey for Minnu Mani, the first Kerala woman to play for the Indian cricket team. In a special gesture, the local municipality last month named the Mysuru road junction as ‘Minnu Mani Junction’, the very place in the hilly town of Mananthavady from where she would commute daily, covering 42 kilometres to train at the KCA Stadium. “I practised cricket and carried out my studies in Kerala Cricket Association’s Cricket Academy from ninth grade until my graduation,” the Delhi Capitals cricketer said on the sidelines of their camp here.
“But, post my graduation, I had to cover a long distance to reach my training ground from my home,” the 24-year-old recalled her hardships.
Daughter of a daily-wage labourer, Mani, who belongs to a Kurichiya tribe in Wayanad, initially was not interested in cricket but her Higher Secondary school teacher convinced her to take up the sport and put her under the guidance of district coach Shanavas.
She would travel about three hours daily, hopping four buses to train at the KCA Stadium in Krishnagiri.
“I was travelling three hours a day and my family found it difficult to provide for my travel requirements as well. However, all the hard work has paid off now.
“Whenever I used to go for practice, I used to cross the main junction of our town. And now that junction is called Minnu Mani junction. I feel very proud and happy to see a junction named after me,” she added.
An off-spinner who bats left-handed primarily in the top-order, Mani had an impressive outing in the 2023 Senior Women’s One Day Trophy, scoring 246 runs from eight matches at an average of 41 and picking up 12 wickets at 16.75 and economy rate of 3.79.
She came to limelight after Delhi Capitals picked her for Rs 30 lakh at the WPL auction.
The Kerala cricketer’s moment of reckoning came when she made her India debut on the tour of Bangladesh in July, playing all three T20Is.
“I didn’t expect to play all matches in the T20 series. I couldn’t believe it when I was named in the eleven for the first game of the series. I was so excited to get the opportunity and it was great to receive my India cap from Smriti Mandhana,” she recalled fondly.
Mani, who is part of the Indian squad for the upcoming Asian Games, further said: “I was slightly nervous when I started bowling. I got hit for a six and a four, and then Harmanpreet (captain) shared some thoughts with me. I felt comfortable on the field after the two hits (laughs).” The Delhi Capitals men’s and women’s teams recently carried out an off-season camp in the Delhi NCR region.
The camp, which was conducted under the watchful eyes of the franchise’s Director of Cricket Sourav Ganguly, consisted of nine players from each of the men’s and women’s teams.
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