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Vol. XXXIII No. 23, March 16-31, 2024

Meet Keerthana, a leg-spinner from TN bagged by Mumbai Indians

-- by V. Venkataramana

It was only since the 2016 edition of the Men’s T20 Indian Premier League (IPL) that leg spinners, akin to pace bowlers, began to be recognised as potential match winners by various franchises. Now, the Women’s Premier League (WPL) launched by the Indian Cricket Board last year has brought into the limelight S.B. Keerthana, a 23-year-old leg spinner and all-rounder from Tamil Nadu. Coached by TNCA (Tamil Nadu Cricket Association) coach T.S. Mukund – himself a leg spinner and a batsman during his playing days – Keerthana was picked up by the Mumbai Indians for the second edition of the WPL that began on February 23rd at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru. She was bought for a base price of Rs. 10 lakhs.

In her own words, Keerthana’s tryst with Cricket was not quite planned. She began to play the sport purely as a means to engage in physical activity alongside her studies. It eventually became a passion and Keerthana began to nurse ambitions of representing state and country. Her spectacular journey in Cricket took flight when she was 13, after she first honed the basics at a Cricket academy owned by the father of Indian spinner Washington Sundar, as well as at the MAC Spin Foundation under former cricketer Peter Fernandez. “I owe my success in Cricket to my school Sacred Heart MHSS and my college MOP Vaishnav in Chennai, where I did my UG and PG,” adds Keerthana. “They were so supportive.”  She eventually shifted to coach with T.S. Mukundan and Nirmal Kumar at their academy. “Mukund sir focused on variations in my leg spin bowling,” she said. 

Her remarkable talents in leg-break bowling and batting came to the fore, and she went on to represent the State in the Under-16 category at the age of 10, and later at 13, she played in the Under-19 State team as well. “I got a good season with the ball bowling a good leg spin,” she smiles. The performance saw her picked to play in Zonal and Inter-Zonal matches. Soon, Keerthana found herself at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore, where she further honed her skills at leg-spin bowling; from there, she rose to represent and captain India Blue in the Under-19 category, India Red in the Under-23 and India Green in Senior categories for the Woman’s National Championships.

Keerthana feels confident about her performance with the Mumbai Indians, though the women’s team already has a leg-spin bowler who is senior to her. “I first went to the Mumbai Indians WPL team selection trials for a week. As luck would have it, I was picked for the team for a good base price,” she said. Her confidence comes on the back of a proven track record – three of her best performances include a stunning bowling spell of 10-3-16-5 in a Senior One-Day limited overs National championship match against Saurashtra; a meaty century knock of 123 in the U-16 State championship match against Karnataka; and another commendable score of 114 in the U-19 One-Day championship against Saurashtra, again. Keerthana aims to continue to perform well as a leg spinner, a rare breed of talent in Cricket considering that it is a notoriously difficult art to master – the small number of leg-spinners is testimony to this fact. She also intends to do well by the bat and hopes to represent India at the earliest.

T.S. Mukund, her present coach, remarks that she has a unique slinging bowling action that is hard to face. “Unpredictability is the forte of her bowling skill,” he added. “She keeps the batsman guessing by varying her pace, length and line.” It is crucial, points out Mukund, to maintain consistency in deliveries with a unique bowling action such as hers. Keerthana, to form, displays tremendous consistency in line and length. As a leg spinner, she has an excellent top spin and googly. 

To paraphrase Mukund, now that the development of women’s Cricket in Tamil Nadu is “good,” it is entirely possible that more such talents like Keerthana’s can emerge in the future. Shining days ahead, then, for women’s Cricket in the State.

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