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Meet Anuradha Doddaballapur, a cardiovascular scientist from Bengaluru and Germany’s cricket captain

Anuradha is also the first woman to pick up four consecutive wickets in T20 Internationals

Agathe Agathe Aithu!! (‘It will happen, it will happen, it hashappened!!’ in Kannada)” began a tweet from the official handle of German Women’s Cricket last August. Their captain had just accomplished a feat that no other woman in international cricket has: four wickets in four balls in a T20 International. As the lower-ranked Austria floundered at 40/3 in 14 overs, chasing 198 at the Seebarn Cricket Centre, she wrecked them further in the next over with a four-wicket maiden. In the 18th over, the medium-pacer picked up one more to finish with an astonishing bowling figure (three overs, two maidens, one run, and five wickets). Whoever was tweeting from the German Women’s Cricket team account wanted to pay Anuradha Doddaballapur a little tribute in her mother tongue.

More accolades awaited Anuradha. She led the team to a commanding 5-0 series win that witnessed a slew of records: two hat-tricks, first T20I century, first T20I five-for, and an unbeaten opening partnership across all T20Is. Another 5-0 win over France this year extended the team’s T20I winning streak to 14. The hitherto little-known German cardiovascular scientist was getting interview requests for an accomplishment in a game, which for her is a “serious hobby”.

But cricket captured her interest before science.

Anuradha Doddaballapur with her teammates | Photo Credit: Jagadesh Devan

Anuradha grew up in Basavanagudi, a residential locality in South Bengaluru. Like many middle-class fathers of that time in Bengaluru, hers too was a keen follower of cricket. The live games and their reruns on television were hard to miss. A youngster from her city named Rahul Dravid was already making his presence felt in international cricket. But Anuradha was more drawn to a cricketer from another country. The zinc-smeared, fearsome fast bowler from South Africa: Allan Donald.

On a Sunday morning from Frankfurt, where she lives now, she reminisces about her childhood during the ‘90s over the phone. Dosas from Vidyarthi Bhavan and CTR. Traffic-free roads. And, more endearingly, the weekend cricket games with her brother, cousins and uncle in the front yard of her ancestral house. Despite her fondness for Donald, Anuradha bowled leg-spin in her initial days.

She also recalls what she calls the “moment of reckoning” in her cricket career. “I was in Class VII at Bishop Cotton Girls’ school and a classmate who was playing for Karnataka then told me about an Under-16 trial. I dialled home from one of those one-rupee coin-operated phones and told them I would be late.”

A few weeks later, Anuradha made her debut for the Karnataka U-16 side. In the decade that followed, she played for the U-19 side, the senior state team and South Zone. Some of her teammates like Veda Krishnamurthy, Vanitha VR, Nooshin Al Khadeer, Karuna Jain and Mamatha Maben went on to play for India. She, too, could have had she chose to focus more on her “serious hobby” than her burgeoning interest in science. The following for women’s cricket in India was almost absent then. It was not a great career choice. So, in 2008, she moved to the UK for a Masters in Medical Genetics at Newcastle University. Three years later, she was in Frankfurt for a PhD in Cardiovascular Biology at the Goethe University. She is now a postdoctoral research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research.

What if women’s cricket in India had the following it has now? Would she have chosen cricket over science? Anuradha pauses before saying, “I think I would have still gone to the UK. I might have taken a little longer to decide.”

Anuradha Doddaballapur | Photo Credit: Jagadesh Devan

Though she chose science over cricket for her profession, she never let go of the game. It had become a part of her life. Wherever she went, she searched for it. If she couldn’t find a team, she formed one.

In her three-year stay in England, she played for Newcastle University, South North Cricket Club and Northumberland women’s county side. At least England was a cricketing nation and it was not too difficult to find women who played cricket. Frankfurt, where she moved to in 2011, was another story. It did not have a women’s team. So she did what she did as a young girl in Basavanagudi; play with the boys.

It was awkward for the men who played against the Frankfurt Cricket Club (FCC). “They were surprised to see a woman bowling to them. And, I do not think they were very pleased when they got out,” she adds, laughing.

Despite getting the better of the guys, Anuradha had an idea to start a women’s team for FCC in 2015. There was a problem — there were hardly any players to pick.

Cricket is a fringe sport in Germany. Most of them who play the game are people who come from an accomplished cricket nation. The participation is scantier for women. Right, so there is not a team to pick; so, let us build one, thought Anuradha. She took up coaching, did a certified course and started teaching the basics to novices.

Eight months into 2015, she put together a women’s team. Six years later, she won the top-division tournament, German Women’s Bundesliga with them for the first time. She came. She saw. She found no team; so created one. And, she conquered.

She has been a part of the German side since 2013. She has played 18 T20Is, including the one that prompted the team’s Twitter handle to tweet in Kannada. She laughs when asked about it. But beyond the amusement of seeing a Kannada phrase in a German team’s handle are multiculturalism and camaraderie. “All the players feel extremely proud to wear the German jersey. But Some of us have roots in different parts of the world.” Kenya, Australia, USA, India." There are two other Bengalureans, Karthika Vijayaraghavan and Sharanya Sadarangani, in the team. "So, “Sometimes, apart from English and German, we throw around these phrases [in our native languages and ]. And, agathe is one of them.”

Germany was ranked outside the top-40 in the ICC T20I rankings when T20I status was granted in 2018 to all international games. They are 24th now. Anuradha would have liked to lead them to a World Cup participation. It would take several years of constant progress for Germany to get there. Anuradha, 34, might not be playing then, but would like to see the next generation of players getting there.

She already volunteers with the cricket board in a bunch of coaching, recruiting and promotional activities.

"You might not always get the required results immediately. But you have to keep trying." Anuradha isn’t talking about cricket here. She’s talking about her other area of interest: science. "Sometimes, you have to work on an experiment or a hypothesis for months or years, and you fail. There’s more failure than success in science. But you go back and try again."

The requirement of resilience. That is what, according to Anuradha, ties cricket and science together.

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