From humble backgrounds to spotlight: Kerala trio's inspiring WPL journey

Sajana, Asha & Minnu
From left: S Sajana, Asha Sobhana and Minnu Mani. File photos: KCA & IANS

They have attained success in their chosen field by staying focused when engulfed by adversities. Minu Mani, S Sajana and Asha Sobhana, the three Keralites who feature in the second edition of the ongoing Women’s Premier League (WPL), are role models for girls pursuing a career in sports. Remarkably, their accomplishments have come against heavy odds in a field that has historically neither welcomed nor appreciated women, especially in a conservative society like Kerala.

The trio has made it to the competitive field of WPL on the back of their fine performances on the domestic circuit and in the trials conducted by the franchises.

Minnu, the tribal girl from Edappady near Mananthavady in Wayanad, was the first from the state to be picked up in the inaugural WPL auction last year. Delhi Capitals (DC) signed Minnu for Rs 30 lakh. Asha, who hails from Thiruvananthapuram, was snapped up by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) for her base price of Rs 10 lakh.

Both Minnu and Asha had a rather quiet WPL 2023. However, Minnu became a household name in Kerala as she became the first Malayali woman to play for India in a Twenty20 International last July. She made her debut against Bangladesh at Mirpur. Minnu was also part of the Indian team, which won gold at the Hangzhou Asian Games.

Minnu Mani, Titas Sadhu, Jemimah Rodrigues and Shafali Verma
From left: Minnu Mani, Titas Sadhu, Jemimah Rodrigues and Shafali Verma pose with their Asian Games gold medals. File photo: Instagram@minnu_mani

The fact that Minnu and Asha were retained by their franchises was an indicator that they had impressed their respective team management.

Like Minnu, Sajana too hails from Mananthavady and comes from a humble background. The 29-year-old all-rounder is the daughter of an autorickshaw driver. She got the big break when Mumbai Indians (MI) signed her for Rs 15 lakh in the second WPL auction held in December.

Kerala captain Sajana, who has been a consistent performer for the state, became an overnight sensation when she smashed a last-ball six on her WPL debut to fashion defending champions MI’s thrilling four-wicket win over DC in the opening match of WPL 2024. It was the just reward for all the hard yards Sajana has put in.

Sajana in action against Delhi Capitals. File photo: PTI/Atul Yadav

If Sajana starred on the opening night, it was Asha’s turn to steal the show in the very next outing. The veteran leggie bamboozled UP Warriorz with her bag of tricks. Asha claimed 5/22 from her four overs to set up RCB’s thrilling two-run win.

Asha, whose father is an autorickshaw driver, has been a regular for both Kerala and Railways before moving over to Puducherry. The wait was worth it as Asha spun a web around the Warriorz batters at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru and in the process became the first Indian to pick up a five-for in the WPL. The 32-year-old had scalped five from as many games in the inaugural WPL season and equalled it in her very first match this edition.

Asha Sobhana
Asha Sobhana, third right, celebrates with teammates after dismising UP Warriorz' Deepti Sharma. File photo: PTI/Shailendra Bhojak

Minnu is yet to set the stage on fire. But it won’t be a surprise if the 24-year-old lights up the proceedings during the climactic stages of the competition.

Minnu, Sajana and Asha epitomise the power of hard work and perseverance in the face of difficulties. Their success story will definitely inspire young girls in Kerala to dream big.

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