CHENNAI: Arundhati Reddy usually doesn’t like her mother coming to watch her play. It has been the case even in the early days when her mom Bhagya Reddy used to drop her for practice in Hyderabad. It was not that she was tense or afraid, the then teenager was just shy.
“I don't know why but I used to feel very shy even when I was very young, when my mom used to come and drop me for practice or matches. I used to get a little awkward with my mom being there,” the India and Delhi Capitals all-rounder tells this daily.
In fact, it had been over eight years since her mother watched her play in person. Which is why, when Arundhati asked her mom to come for a game or two during the ongoing Women’s Premier League, she was surprised. Having played most of her India games overseas, the Hyderabad all-rounder who plays for Railways has had very little opportunity to ask Bhagya to come and watch her play.
When the WPL came along, it felt like the right moment for the 25-year-old to make it happen, especially with the crowd and her experience in the stadium. And rightfully, her mother was not disappointed when she turned up for the match against Royal Challengers Bangalore on March 13 at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.
“She loved it,” says an elated Arundhati. “My friends and family took videos and photos of her and she was so excited. Even after the game when I met her, she was extremely happy. That's when I felt I am just happy that my mother is watching me play, in fact, she is going to come for the final as well.”
Why will she not be? After all, it was Bhagya, as a single mother, who put her foot down to back Arudhati’s love for cricket when she was 11. For Bhagya, all that mattered was her daughter’s dream; the things that people in the neighbourhood and around said weren't relevant. And the dream did come true soon enough as Arundhati rose through the ranks rapidly to make her India debut at the age of 20. The hyper-enthusiastic pacer who can hit the ball long found herself filling the shoes of the legendary Jhulan Goswami in the shortest format.
Since then, she was a regular in the T20s, playing in two T20 World Cups in 2018 and 2020, respectively. And when the India women returned to the field after the pandemic, Arundhati was a regular in the playing XI for a couple of series before warming the bench in Australia. After that she was left out of the squad in 2022, and hasn’t been picked since.
“It was really hard at the start. It took me some time, I won't lie, after that I just started to focus on my present and where I am and not think too far ahead of what I want to do.” She started putting in the hard yards in training without focusing on results. For her, whether things went well or not did not matter, it was all about giving her 100 per cent. As she tried to remain calm as a person unaffected by the results, something that is unnatural for her personality, things took a turn for good with Arundhati picking up 15 wickets in the 2022-23 domestic season so far.
However, the reason for her calmness wasn’t just the work she had put in on the field. There was more to it. “I have become very spiritual and that is something that has really helped me. Earlier, I wasn't very spiritual but I don't know how it got into me. In the past one year, I have become extremely spiritual. I think that is what has calmed me down a lot. A lot has changed, but it has changed for good."
"The main thing I told myself this season is that no matter what I am going to enjoy myself and not worry about the result. That is one thing I decided for myself this season and no matter what happens, I am going to stick to that. And honestly this WPL, being with DC, it's been like one of the best tournaments for me, not just on the field but off it as well. I have had a great bunch of people to talk to, support staff to talk to, used to working in a great atmosphere, it has been amazing for me."
As the all-rounder tries to focus on remaining calm and enjoying every moment in the lead up to the WPL final on Sunday, there is a fire burning inside as well —- the India comeback. Like any cricketer, she, too, wants to play and win matches for India and win the World Cup, especially having watched the last two editions (2022 ODI and 2023 T20) from home.
“When you sit and watch from home it is not fun because you want to be part of that. Obviously, that is the motivation that I have. The biggest motivation for me is winning the World Cup for India. That is always going to be there and until I get there I am not going to stop.”