Keerthi K James has become the first Kerala player to be selected for the Women's T20 Challenge. It was just reward for Keerthi's consistent performances for the state on the domestic circuit. The off-spinning all-rounder is close to realising her dream of playing for the country.
"I am delighted to be here. It's a great chance and it's a learning process. Nothing like playing alongside and against the best in the business," Keerthi told Onmanorama over the phone from Pune where the Women's T20 Challenge will commence on Monday.
The 25-year-old from Thiruvananthapuram is part of the Velocity team led by Indian all-rounder Deepti Sharma. Velocity open their campaign against Supernovas on Tuesday, with Trailblazers completing the three-team line-up.
Keerthi was expecting the call-up after her impressive outing for India 'D' in the Challenger Trophy last December. "I was hopeful of being part of the T20 Challenge since I had done well in the Challenger Trophy," Keerthi said.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India has announced a Women's IPL from next year and Keerthi has no doubt that there will be quite a few Kerala players in it. "I may be the lone Kerala player here. But players such as Minnu (Mani), Sajana (S), Akshaya (A) and Jincy (George) are also knocking on the doors and they are also ready for the IPL."
Keerthi was a sprinter in her early days before switching to cricket. "I was fond of athletics and used to be a sprinter at the school-level. My physical education teacher told me to turn to cricket when I was 12 years old. I started off as a fast bowler before Sohan sir told me to try my hand at spin bowling during a district camp."
Though things are looking up for women's cricket in the country, lack of employment for the players at the state-level is a big worry. "The only hindrance for us is the absence of job opportunities. We are left with nothing after giving our all on the field," laments Keerthi who is a Political Science graduate from Delhi University.