Working Hard And Cruel Fate - Devika Vaidya's Tale > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Of hard work and cruel twists of fate - Devika Vaidya's tale

"See, a legspinner can either lose a game for you or win it for you single-handedly. It can go either way" - Devika Vaidya

For someone who made India debut at the age of 19, two and a half years ago, Devika Vaidya has only 10 international caps across formats, and for very little fault of hers. The past 12 months haven't been particularly kind to her.

Vaidya was in line to make her international comeback against Australia, in March 2018 but was diagnosed with Chikungunya, and had to be replaced as India A captain just before the squad was due to be announced. Months before that, she watched her team's run to the historic 2017 World Cup final from the confines of her living room because of a shoulder injury she picked up in South Africa in May.

When she got back into the team on the back of a century in a warm-up match against England, she was dropped after a couple of low scores in the ODIs. Once the domestic season started again, the Senior Women's Challenger Trophy was her chance to get back into the Sri Lanka-bound national side. But then came Dengue laying her low once again. "Worst birthday ever," she recalls.

When the national call-up came once again - in the form of a late injury replacement call at the 2018 T20 WC in the Caribbean - Vaidya's cruel fate would have its way again. She found herself booking the return tickets on the same day that she landed as India were knocked out of the semifinal.

She was again back in contention upon being named in the warm-up squad to face England, in February earlier this year, but this time she had to withdraw herself after her mother passed away with a sudden cardiac arrest on the eve of the fixture. "My uncle called and just said that mom fainted and hit her head at my grandmother's house, and was admitted in the ICU." She learnt of the tragedy only upon reaching home in Pune, It was perhaps the cruelest of all blows.

Vaidya found peace in keeping herself busy enough as cricket became her coping mechanism. Jaipur, the venue of Women's T20 Challenge 2019, was her third assignment since. She led India Blue to the U23 Challenger Trophy title in Nagpur in April, "without getting even a scratch", and thereby made a strong case for selection in this year's expanded WIPL dress rehearsal.

"Sitting at home became difficult, telling everyone the same story over and over again. That's why I went back to cricket as soon as I could, and just carried on with the season. Sitting at home, it felt like a haunted place.

"I didn't have an option but to be strong throughout all this. I looked at everyone's faces - my uncle, grandparents, her aunt - they had lost a daughter. Their only regret was that being a family of doctors they could do nothing to save her. It was easy for me to just sit and cry, but that's not my nature really. I can't cry in front of everyone. I told them and also my dad to express anything that they feel because they're old. I'm young, I could cope. I think my family and friends are really worried, because I haven't expressed anything since then; I haven't cried. Just because of this, my friends took me for a trip recently. I actually needed that break before coming here, I feel.

"While playing, when I go out there, I don't think much. Of course I feel bad when I see and mum's not around. In fact, the last game she watched was here in Jaipur. It struck me when we came for our first practice session here. I just speak out whenever I feel something. Keeping what I feel to myself is difficult, it's dangerous I feel."

Vaidya's parents are the reason why she could pursue the sport in the fist place. The trio "were like a unit" and always travelled together to even the remotest parts of the country to watch her play. Years before that, when Vaidya got sucked into the sport at six, the family did not bat an eyelid. If anything, she was encouraged to play as much as she could and has a blackbelt in taekwondo. Seven years ago, Vaidya started training under Atul Gaikwad who played a big role in turning the wannabe Brett Lee into something more suited to her physique in cricket. And thus began her tryst with legspin.

"My coach went like, 'look at your height! How are you going to bowl bouncers?' I learnt watching Shane Warne videos, because sir used to keep bombarding me with it. He in fact used to bring his laptop to nets because he said, 'I know you won't do it at home, so you have to watch it here itself in front of my eyes'," Vaidya recalls.

"I went for legspin because I love away-going deliveries because of how challenging they are. See, a legspinner can either lose a game for you or win it for you single-handedly. It can go either way," she chuckles. "I make runs to make up for the one I give away," she adds cheekily. "See, it's important. Now that women's cricket has advanced so much, you just can't be one dimensional, you can't keep working on just one skill. You need to be all-round to keep ahead of the competition."

While the switch to spin was the only choice, batting was something Gaikwad had to quite literally drill into her. "I used to literally run away from the ball coming at me. He used to make me stay back after practice batting for a couple of hours, no kidding. My mom started bringing my dinner to nets!" Vaidya's homework involved watching all the AB de Villiers' innings she wanted, but in the mirror. "Since I'm a leftie bat, sir wanted me to watch the mirror image to learn how he approaches and learn how he plays all his shots."

At Velocity during the Women's T20 Challenge, Vaidya spent the first day in Jaipur catching up with an old pal, Danielle Wyatt, who almost took her along to Sussex for a county stint last year, and then quickly made friends with fellow legspinner, Amelia Kerr.

"We spoke a lot about the variations we were bowling and our different grips for the ball while bowling, say, a googly. Grip position, release, line and length while bowling that variation - it was a fun conversation. We've got the same variations, but our grips are different. She's a youngster and playing so much [internationally], so I was asking her about the workload she had, and what she does for training during their off-season which is now."

Velocity's preference for a more experienced legspinner - albeit a teenager - meant Vaidya had to sit out of the team's both the league fixtures. Selection, rather non-selection, stopped giving her sleepless nights long ago. Vaidya insists she's more than happy even if she was at a camp right now, or playing domestic cricket. But to be here, in a potentially path-breaking tournament, occupying a spot on the same table as some of India's finest and 12 of world's best, she's trying to imbibe as much as she can even.

Vaidya's first game-time was in the season finale, where she responded beautifully making heads turn with her first ball in the competition. Up against another one of her friends, Jemimah Rodrigues, she began with a lovely flighted delivery on length that spun away from the batter tad late and beat the Player of the Tournament. She finished with figures of 1 for 21 from her four overs - spoiled only by Harmanpreet Kaur's two monster sixes in the death overs. But in her first three overs, Vaidya justified why she deserved to be there. She prised out well-set Priya Punia triggering a Supernovas' collapse that nearly turned the game in Velocity's favour.

"Selection part is not in our hands, what is, is cricket. Keeping myself fit physically and mentally was what kept me going. Selection wise, well, if my parents were happy, I was happy. It's been like that since forever. They have put a lot more efforts than me since childhood - my mom used to literally slide me out of the bed and send me practice because I loved sleeping in the afternoons. So, if it made them happy I didn't mind playing a district match also," says Vaidya.

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