As a schoolgirl, she had to play the game without her parents knowing. Now, the tribal player is the toast of Kerala’s Wayanad and beyond.
For Kerala cricketer Minnu Mani, life has come full circle. Within the span of a few months, the 24-year-old all-rounder has experienced multiple emotions. Hailing from the Kurichiya tribe in Wayanad, Mani not only became the only player from the state to be part of the inaugural Women’s Premier League (WPL) after Delhi Capitals bought her for ₹30 lakh, but also made her successful India T20 debut against Bangladesh last month.
Minnu Mani (second from left) with her family outside her house in Wayanad, Kerala.
What makes Mani emotional is the love she has been receiving from the people of Wayanad since she grabbed the limelight as an India cricketer and how parents are now egging on their daughters to take up cricket and follow in the footsteps of Mani.
“I had to face backlash from society as well as my parents when I showed interest in cricket. Until eighth standard, my parents didn’t even know I was secretly playing local matches. I was expected to study and work in the paddy fields and assist my parents in farming.
“Locals are so excited that someone from Wayanad is now playing for India and now they want their daughters to learn the sport like me. I have asked the local administration to grant me a small piece of land where I with the help of my sisters can build a cricket nursery so that the budding cricketers do not have to travel miles to train,” said Mani, who bagged five wickets in the three-match T20 series against Bangladesh and was the most impressive amongst all Indian bowlers.
The Mananthavady Municipality of Wayanad district in north Kerala has honoured the cricketer by renaming a road junction after her. The Mysuru road junction, which will now be known as ‘Minnu Mani junction’, is just 3 km from her house, though there is no connecting road from there to her house.
“It feels special that they have shown this respect to me. I have seen films and political celebrities have roads named after them. The local administration will be building a connecting road soon,” added Mani, who feels cricket has changed her fortunes. The daughter of a labourer and part-time farmer, she completed her house, bought furniture and a Scooty to travel to the academy from the money she received from Delhi Capitals after playing WPL.
“BCCI has just changed women’s cricket in India. I come from a humble background but now I can think of buying things for my parents so that they do not have to slog. My father worked as a labourer and on paddy fields to earn a livelihood. I am happy he no longer has to do that. Now that I have played for India, I can also apply for a job in the Indian Railways,” said Mani who now will be using her Scooty to travel to the Kerala Cricket Association Stadium for training which is more than 50 km from her house.
She is also in the Indian team which will be playing in the upcoming Asian Games. A top-order left-handed batter and an impressive off-spinner Mani hopes to shine at the Asian Games and then keep doing well in order to bag a berth in the ODI India team as well.
“Representing India in the Asian Games will be a great honour. I hope to do well as an all-rounder. India has a star-studded batting line-up and my turn in the Indian team usually comes when six wickets are down,” said Mani, who added that she was surprised to see her name in India’s T20 team for Bangladesh T20 series as she had just played three games in WPL for the star-studded Delhi Capitals team. The 19th Asian Games Hangzhou will be held from September 19 to October 8 at Zhejiang University of Technology Pingfeng Cricket Field. The women’s cricket competition will take place from September 19 to 28 in a T20 format.
Seeing her growing popularity, it looks like the whole Wayanad would be glued to television when Mani bowls, bats and delivers in the Asian Games wearing the India jersey.