Empowering the Pitch: Minnu Mani’s Journey and the Warmth of Women’s Cricket in India

As a schoolgirl, Minnu Mani had to forgo playing games without informing her parents. Now, the tribal athlete from Kerala’s Wayanad has become famous in her hometown and beyond. Minnu Mani, a cricketer from Kerala, has experienced a full cycle of life. In the span of a few months, the 24-year-old all-rounder has gone through various emotions. Hailing from the Kurichiya tribe in Wayanad, she not only became a part of the inaugural Women’s Premier League (WPL) for the state when Delhi Capitals bought her for ₹30 lacks but also made a successful debut in India’s T20 against Bangladesh.

What warms Mani’s heart is the affection she receives from the people of Wayanad. She garnered headlines as an Indian cricketer and now her parents are encouraging their daughters to play cricket and follow in Mani’s footsteps. She shared, “When I showed interest in cricket, I faced criticism not only from society but also from my parents. Until eighth grade, my parents weren’t even aware that I was playing local matches secretly. They expected me to study, work in the paddy fields, and help them in farming.”

Empowering the Pitch: Minnu Mani's Journey and the Warmth of Women's Cricket in India

The locals are so excited that someone from Wayanad is playing for India, and they want their daughters to learn cricket like me. I’ve asked the local administration to provide me a small piece of land where I can establish a cricket nursery with the help of my sisters so that emerging cricketers don’t have to travel miles for training,” said Mani. She debuted successfully against Bangladesh in the T20 series, taking five wickets and being the most impactful among all Indian bowlers.

The Mananthavady Municipality in North Kerala’s Wayanad district has honored her by renaming a road junction. The Mysore Road Junction, now known as ‘Minnu Mani Junction,’ is just 3 km away from her house, though there’s no direct road to her home from there. “It’s a unique and heartwarming experience to witness such a display of respect directed towards me. I’ve seen roads named after movies and political figures. The local administration will soon construct a connecting road,” Mani believes that cricket has turned her destiny around. As a daughter of a laborer and part-time farmer, she had managed to complete her home and bought furniture, and a scooter with the money she received from Delhi Capitals after playing in the WPL.

The BCCI has transformed women’s cricket in India. I come from a humble background, but now I can even think about buying things for my parents so that they don’t have to toil hard. My father used to work as a laborer and in paddy fields to earn a living. I’m glad I won’t have to do that now. When I played for India, I can also apply for a job in the Indian Railways,” said Mani, who will use her scooter for the journey to Kerala Cricket Association Stadium for training. It’s over 50 km away from her home.

She is also part of the upcoming Asian Games Indian team. As a left-handed top-order batter and effective off-spinner, Mani hopes to shine in the Asian Games and continue performing well to secure a place in the One Day International (ODI) India team.

Empowering the Pitch: Minnu Mani's Journey and the Warmth of Women's Cricket in India

It is a great honor and source of pride to be selected to represent India at the Asian Games.

I hope to perform well as an all-rounder. India has a strong lineup of batting stars, and my turn in the Indian team usually comes when six wickets are down,” said Mani, who was surprised to see her name in the Indian T20 team for the Bangladesh series, as she had played only three matches for Delhi Capitals in the WPL. The 19th Asian Games are scheduled to be held in Hangzhou, China from September 19 to October 8. The women’s cricket competition will be in T20 format from September 19 to 28.

With her growing popularity, it seems that when Mani wears the Indian jersey and performs in the Asian Games with her bowling, batting, and all-around skills, the whole of Wayanad will be glued to their television screens.

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