CHENNAI: When Tamil Nadu skipper S Pavithra trusted K Ramyashri with the new ball against S Meghana and Indrani Roy- trying to defend paltry 111 in a must-win encounter against Railways in the women’s senior one day tournament last month - the 19-year-old's mind travelled back to the under-23 one day match between Tamil Nadu and Andhra in 2017.
Meghana, then playing for her state, was in the middle, opening the batting while chasing a sub-par total. The aggressive opener tried to take on Tamil Nadu bowlers early in the innings, but Ramyashri, then just 14, had other ideas. The left-arm spinner broke through Meghana’s defense, sending her back to the dressing room for a 12-ball 15.
But, it was 2021 and Meghana was a different batter now. She welcomed Ramyashri with a tonk over mid-off for a boundary. The left-arm spinner was not rattled. "Standing on top of my mark, I thought, 'If I did it then, I could do it again. I had dismissed her before and I know what I do," Ramyashri tells The New Indian Express.
After a couple of quiet overs, Meghana tried to go after Ramyashri, only to be caught on the inner-circle by Niranjana Nagarajan for 11 runs from 17 balls. "I had set my mind on it and I had done it. It was one of the memorable moments for me this season," says the 19-year-old.
Ramyashri went on to dismiss the other opener, Roy, in her next over, but Tamil Nadu lost the match by eight wickets, and bowed out of the tournament in the group stage. However, the left-arm-spinner took nine scalps in five matches, finishing as the leading wicket taker for her state. The following week, she earned her maiden Challenger Trophy call-up, and played for India B in the recently concluded tournament.
As a person who believes in the process of doing her job without having any expectations, Ramyashri wasn't anticipating the call-up. "The seniors in our Tamil Nadu camp were encouraging me to do well, but I did not expect the call. But, I am really happy that I got to play in the very first match and pick up two wickets," she said.
Playing for India B under Punjab skipper Taniya Bhatia, Ramyashri found the India internationals playing in the competition welcoming.
"They were all very supportive and often motivating the younger players in the squad irrespective of the results. Harleen Deol, who was in our team, even came up to me and told me that I was bowling really well, and that if I focus on my fitness and fielding a bit more, I could go a long way. It was a good learning experience," she said.
Coming from a sporting family in Chennai with her elder brother and father playing cricket at different levels, Ramyashri picked up the sport at a very young age. She made her Tamil Nadu under-16 debut at the age of 12.
The next year she was playing under-19 and in the 2016-17 season, Ramyashri made her debut in the state senior team. Having made her debut at a very young age, she played two age-group and senior tournaments, providing her the chance to test herself at different levels.
"I had a good debut season with Tamil Nadu U19 and that led to my under-23 and senior team debut. Some of the players I have played together and against in age-group cricket - like Sanjula Naik from Goa and a few players from Karnataka - are a part of their respective senior state teams now. The past experience really helps when I play against them. It’s really good to see them grow through the ranks," she said.
Ramyashri has played for Tamil Nadu for five years now, and she is still 19. Looking back at the time she made her debut, the left-arm-spinner feels that women’s cricket has come a long way in the state. "Back then, there was not much competition for selections. But, now many girls are showing interest in the game and the competition has become tougher in selection trials. And that has helped us improve the standards of the state team as well," she said.
Having played a significant amount of cricket under and with Dayalan Hemalatha for Tamil Nadu under-23 and the senior team, Ramyashri has a special bond with the India international. "I have learnt a lot from her. She has always been encouraging and has guided me at every step; has motivated me to work hard through times. Whatever success I have got is because of that hard work only," she said.
For her, contributing to Tamil Nadu's victories in the last couple of games of the senior one day tournament was one of the most satisfying moments this year. "I was really happy with the way I bowled, and even more proud of how our team bounced back after the three early defeats," she said.
With an eye on India call-up as a long-term goal, Ramyashri shifts her focus on to the Senior T20 Tournament, scheduled to be played early next year. "I want to finish as the leading wicket taker and win matches for Tamil Nadu," she concluded.