HomeInterviewsEXCLUSIVE: "Playing My First Match In WPL Under Meg Lanning Was Something...

EXCLUSIVE: “Playing My First Match In WPL Under Meg Lanning Was Something I Never Dreamt Of” – Minnu Mani Keeps the Learnings from WPL to Move Ahead

Minnu Mani, the girl from the Kurichiya tribe of Wayanad, had only one goal entering the WPL 2024. That was to wash away the not-so-good performance of the last year. She has to prove herself. She has worked hard and had a good outing in domestics which boosted her self-confidence.

“Last year I got chances in three matches and I didn’t match my expectations. I believe that if I get the chance again, I will do whatever is needed to perform well. I am hopeful to do a lot better than the last season,” Minnu Mani shared in an EXCLUSIVE interview with Women’s CricInsight.

Minnu got 7 wickets in both the Senior One Day Trophy and T-20 Trophy while got 5 wickets in the series against England A last year.

Compared to the last season when Minnu Mani got a chance to bowl in one match, she bowled in three innings. After her 0/14 (2) against UP Warriorz and 0/28 (2) against RCB she made way for Titas Sadhu. Minnu knew that rather than being sad about getting dropped out, she needed to continue her routine. She needs to follow her routine, the thing she does the best, irrespective of results, keeping her head above for the next day. And this never-say-attitude she got from her early playing days in the village along with boys.

And in her hard days, she got her captain, Meg Lanning by her side. In a recent interview with ESPN, she said how Meg Lanning helped her in her bowling practice. She focused on how Lanning guided her to land the ball in the right spot, by placing a cap on the pitch and also giving her the match scenario’s.

Making her comeback against Gujrat in the last group match she was bought into the attack in the 9th over. By then Gujrat was reduced to 38/4. After a couple of dot balls, in her first over, Mani produced a ripper to get her first WPL wicket. Coming round the wicket to Ash Gardner, her flighted delivery pitched outside off and came back sharply off the surface. Gardner tried to nodge that around the leg but the ball went through her and crashed middle and off stump.

In her next over after getting hit for a six-over long off, she got the priced scalp of Phoebe Litchfield, who got caught at mid-on. Two overs, 9 runs and two wickets of Ash Gardner and Litchfield, as the skipper comes around to hug her Minnu might have felt that she has repaid the faith Meg Lanning showed in her. In the final, she scored a paltry score of 5 from 3 balls, and fell to Patil, trying to play a sweep shot. She was brought in to attack in the 14th over when RCB only required 35 from 36 balls.

Knowing Smriti Mandhana’s weakness against the offspinners, Lanning opted for Capsey rather than Mani. But when Capsey was ineffective in her opening spell, Mani got the wicket of Smriti Mandhana. It was tossed up on a length on the middle and leg and Mandhana’s eyes lit up as the mid-on was up. However, she was beaten in the air, though, and had to reach out well in front. The ball went up and Reddy made no mistake. But it was too late by then.

Minnu Mani (Image: WPL)
Minnu Mani (Image: WPL)

Wayanad, a town in the northern part of Kerala, which attracts tourists for its natural scenic beauty and is known for being the Parliament seat of Rahul Gandhi, has found its brightest jewel of the crown in Minnu Mani. Minnu Mani became the first woman from Kerala to play in the first season of WPL and then couple of months back, made her debut for India against Bangladesh in T20Is.

“Life has changed in so many ways” – Minnu Mani

Wayanad takes so much pride in her that despite the lack of a motorable road to her home at Mananthavady, the municipality renamed the Thalassery-Valliyoorkavu road junction as the Minnu Mani junction. Minnu who has been retained by Delhi Capitals for the WPL 2024 as well, said that life has changed since WPL of the last year.

“Life has changed in so many ways. Before making my debut for India, I had played for the Delhi Capitals and the whole journey feels surreal. It shaped my life in many ways. From WPL last year my financial condition has improved, apart from that I have played for India after last year’s WPL. Both of these made me more confident about my game and myself. Most importantly I have earned a lot of respect from all, including my seniors and my family also earned respect from society,” she said. In a recent interview with ESPN Cricinfo, she told how she built their house and repaid their loans with her money. Besides how their family took a toil when the basement of their house was washed away in the last slide caused by the flood in 2018.

ALSO READ: “I Will Try To Give My 100% Whenever I Get Opportunities” – Parshavi Chopra

Minnu Mani started playing cricket when she was in class 8 way back in 2011/2012. She used to play with her cousin’s brothers in those days. Rather than sitting somewhere idle, she used to play, run and jump all day long. Though her parents, both of whom are farm labourers, were initially sceptical about their daughter’s passion for cricket, but gradually became her strongest supporters.

Though she was also interested in athletics in the earlier days, when she was in school,  playing cricket and bowling off-spin came naturally to her after her coach’s instruction. Elsamma Baby, the physical education teacher of the government village school first spotted the talent in Minnu Mani during her high school days.

Speaking about her initial struggles Minnu says, “When I started to represent my state, Kerala Cricket Association and Wayanad Cricket Association always supported me. For me, the good facilities or good ground was not very easy to get to get my practice done. I had to travel every day for one and a half hours to get better facilities and a half hours and it was very much difficult for me to do so day in and day out.

So Kerala Cricket Academy stepped in and supported me in whatever way it was possible. When I was not in a state to afford my expenses the KCA stepped in and took care of me. I stayed in that academy for 7 years and played from there. It nourished my dream to play for India,” she again stated.

Minnu’s dream of playing for India would come true in the 2023 Bangladesh series. But before that, she was included in the Delhi Capital squad for the inaugural WPL. Minnu remembers her first match all too well. Before the toss, Minnu was told by the coach that she was playing in that match.

“Playing my first match in WPL and that too under a skipper like Meg Lanning, was something I never dreamt of. It is beyond my imagination and thought that I have played under one of the greatest captains of our times. Before the match, Meg Lanning asked “All set? Good to go?,” she further explained.

That match didn’t match Minnu’s expectations as she was out for a three-ball duck and Delhi was handed a 8 wicket defeat by Mumbai Indians. In the next match against Gujrat, she was handed the ball by Lanning.

“When she handed me the ball she cheered me up and every time I went to bowl she was very much supportive. If I delivered a gem or got hit for four, she every time puts an injection a sense of self believe irrespective of how I bowl,” she add

Minnu Mani was economical in her three overs in that match. After her stint in WPL where she didn’t match her expectations in three matches the most unexpected thing happened in her career. She was called for India’s Tour of Bangladesh.

“I never thought I would get a call to play India. Though getting a chance in the inaugural WPL was surreal, I didn’t do well. I got to bowl only in two matches even there I didn’t use my chances properly,” Minnu said.

Even though she had a stellar domestic season that year she thought after her dismal performance in WPL which is a huge stage to get noticed, she will be overlooked for the international series that year.

“I had a good year at domestic. I performed well in senior and zonal and U-23 too went well for me. But even if someone performs well in the domestics the call for the national side might not come that year. So I was not very hopeful and thought that my performance would not be taken into consideration. So I thought okay next year I will do better to get a call for India. But in life and cricket, an unexpected thing happens,” again shared the spinner.

Before her call in WPL and India, Minnu had taken 12 wickets in the Senior One Day Trophy, and another 6 in the  Senior Inter-Zonal One Day Trophy in the 2022/23 season. In the shorter format of the game,  she took 9 wickets with an average of less than 10 in the Senior T20 Trophy that year. Moreover, with the bat, she scored 246 runs with an average of 41, the highest for her side, in the Senior One Day Trophy. Her 65 runs in the Senior T-20 Trophy came at a strike rate of 128.

In the Bangladesh Series, she got 5 wickets in three matches including a wicket in the very first over of her career, ending the match with the figure of 1/21. In the 2nd T20I, her 2/9 in four overs was instrumental in wrapping Bangladesh innings for a paltry score of 89.    Though she played only a game against Malaysia she didn’t get a chance to bowl in that match. India went on to win the gold medal in the Asian Games. only win the gold Medal.

“From WPL I have learnt how to handle pressure” – Minnu Mani

In November last year, she was selected to lead the India A side against the English A side. Despite leading her stateside several times leading India A was a big thing for her.

Minnu Mani (Image: WPL)
Minnu Mani (Image: WPL)

“It was a big occasion but I tried to keep simple and tried to do the same thing that I do when I lead my state team. I tried to make my players comfortable in and out of the field to get the best out of my players. So my job was to keep everyone relaxed. Everyone including the players supported me so I had no pressure. I didn’t perform well in that series but  I enjoyed the experience which was also a very learning experience for me,” further added the star player.

Minnu who had led her stateside Kerala several times credits the time she has spent under the leadership of Meg Lanning in Delhi Capitals in sharpening her leadership abilities. Spending two seasons with her, closely following how Meg Lanning tackles challenges while leading her troop out in the field has influenced her as well.

“She keeps things very simple. She reacts according to the situation and does the things that are needed exactly at that moment. I have learned how she leads a side and how she makes her players comfortable around her. All those things might have an influence when I am doing my captaincy. It helped me,” she again shared.

There has been a lot of talk about how leagues like WBBL have unearthed the younger talents and developed the cricketers to become more professional in their approach at the elite level in Australia. Minnu believes that leagues like WPL help cricketers like her to take their game to the next level.

WPL is completely different from our domestic environment. Compared to domestic cricket, the Women’s Premier League and International Cricket are at the next level. So rather than doing the things at same intensity, I need to upgrade our skill set to survive in that atmosphere and play for my country for a longer time. I need to access and develop daily,” Minnu Mani expressed.

Apart from getting inputs from international stars about her bowling, WPL, which provided her with the platform to learn from the big names of the game, also helped her to handle pressure in a much better way.

From WPL I have learnt how to handle pressure. When you are playing in the international arena as a beginner there is always an anxiety about your own performances as well as pressure. From WPL I have learnt how not to be bogged down by that. I calm my nerves by talking to myself whenever I go out to the field either in WPL or for India and focus on my job which is to make life harder for batters and take wickets,” Minnu Mani concluded.

Click Here to get the latest news related to Women’s Cricket. You can also check about Match predictions here. Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for more updates.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -

Recent article