Introduction Of Podcast
Vanitha VR, a former Indian cricketer, shares her life journey on this episode and how she made it big despite an inferior infrastructure for women’s cricket in India. She discusses how to bounce back from injury set backs and how can one utilise the magic that visualisation has. Tune right in.
(00:00 – 01:40) – Introduction
(02:04 – 07:20) – Vanitha’s Cricketing Journey
(08:25 – 12:19) – Mental Conditioning & Power of Visualisation
(12:25 – 13:57) – Vanitha’s Sporting Ritual
(14:11 – 17:42) – Physical Preparation & Dealing With Injuries
(17:43 – 21:07) – Vanitha’s Relationship With Food
(21:08 – 26:51) – Vanitha’s Experience With Cyborg
(26::55 – 28:34) – Vanitha’s Goals In The Upcoming Years
Key Takeaways – Transcripts
Intro (Mohit): When it comes to the sport cricket Indians are absolutely crazy. People would leave early from work, skip classes and do all sorts of things, if it means India is playing a match, it’s an absolute frenzy. But all of this mania is for men’s cricket game, right? What about the women’s cricket game, though? The situation is in complete contrast when it comes to the women’s team. Despite the lack of infrastructure and promotion of the women’s cricket team, a girl from the streets of Bangalore had a huge dream. A dream to play cricket for her country. In today’s episode we are joined by Vanitha, a former in cricketer who shot for the sky and turned her dream into reality. We discussed with Vanitha her life journey and how she had to face multiple challenges such as injury setbacks and her quest to make it to the top. Of course, apart from all the stereotypes, she breaks it down for us, the exact scenario of the women’s cricket in early two thousand s and when she started off mita explains how the power of visualization played a key role in her day-to-day routine and how she manifested her wishes into reality coupled with hard work. We speak to her about the cricketing superstitions she had and how she balanced her cravings for sweets with gruelling fitness demands to play at the highest level. This is going to be really interesting. Vanitha also shares with us her experience with the Ultrahuman Cyborg and how it helped her feel better for training and practice. Let’s jump right into it.
(Mohit): Hey Vanitha. Good to finally connect and see you here.
(Vanitha): Thank you. Thank you so much.
Question (Mohit): Big fan of your work and in the cricketing space. And I think what all of us keep talking about is your role in a way motivating millions of thousands of people and especially women in the country to be excited about the sport. Before we begin, I’ll get to know a little bit about your journey till now. I think that’s the most exciting part. I would love to really understand how did you get here and maybe we can start with that?
Answer (Vanitha): It was around six or seven years when I was obviously we have this culture of playing gully cricket back then in Bangalore. That’s because obviously because of thanks to a lot of space that we had around in Bangalore before the infrastructure taking over completely.
(Mohit): Where in Bangalore was this?
(Vanitha): HAL area in and around Old Airport would be called as Basavanagar to be precise.
(Mohit): Which year was this?
(Vanitha): This was somewhere around 96-97. Got it. So hardly any infrastructure or any development then. So I was fortunate that I got to play a lot of street cricket and gully cricket and that’s how I was sort of into it. I figured out that I enjoy playing cricket and my dad, he took me to a professional academy where I enrolled myself when I was eleven years. So 2001 or 2002, I think. So that year he introduced me to professional cricket, and that’s how I got into cricket overall as a professional cricketer. That’s the part to it.
Question (Mohit): And what was it like back then? Like, you’re talking about 2001 and 2002 in a professional cricketing academy in the country. What was it like especially like back then? The infrastructure, the culture around cricket? I’m sure cricket was still pretty huge in India back then, but then, especially for women, for example, what was it like?
Answer (Vanitha): Honestly speaking, if you ask me, I didn’t know women were playing back then. I had absolutely no idea. There was something called women’s cricket. Only once, I must have just happened to see on television. I’m like, oh, what are they, men play? Because I didn’t know that women play only when I joined the Professional Cricket Academy. I got to know that, yes, there is something called women’s cricket exclusively. And even we can also play age group, like our men’s cricket play. So we had age group of under 16, under 19, and then seniors. Three categories was there. So the very first year itself, obviously there was no much competition back then, but then there was something different in me that they saw. Although I was just six months old since I joined cricket, and I was picked for the state team immediately, under 16 state team. So say about five, six months of joining cricket, and then I’m getting to play state cricket where I had absolutely no idea about the rules or whatever it is. I didn’t know they used to play even on a turf wicket. That was the first time. We used to practice on Matting. And that is the first time I’m going on a tournament and I see a turf wicket there and I’m bowling. I’m telling you, trust me, I didn’t know how to even land on the turf wicket. We used to use the stud back then. It was not even a rubber stud, exactly, but it was a stud. So to grip on that surface on a turf wicket or something, which I was like, whoa, whatever you been playing. I didn’t know the professional cricket is played like this. We always are used to playing on matting, those mud grounds, hardly seen any grass or any such thing. And then you get to see that, okay, fine. There’s so much things happening here, and all of a sudden, you go in a tournament and you feel like, okay, after that, I didn’t want to play cricket because the feeling, the sensation of what I had at that particular time when I saw everything, like a professional setup, is something very different, I can tell you.
Question (Mohit): It is completely very different. Wow. I mean, it must have been very overwhelming, I’m sure. Basically sort of like being in that role and also interfacing with the sport the first time around. And this is like long, long back. Like, I’m assuming that the culture of cricket is already there, but I think I’m sure the infrastructure and the facilities and everything would have been in very, very early stages for sure. But tell me a little bit about you sort of got introduced to the sport very early and did you also try out any other sports as well or was cricket you first love?
Answer (Vanitha): No, it was only cricket to be honest. I didn’t have the opportunity to try out another sport earlier in my career. That is because once I started playing state I felt a little bit of success. It’s a bit of structures that you earlier on in your life in a teenage you get to see. And then obviously I was quite excited and I got carried away by just playing one sport. Although I used to sort of understand the other sport but I never played. But it was only in college when I moved to POC it was in mountains, so there was this entire thing about sports and all that. So I was really fascinated about trying baseball and softball because I felt it was closer to cricket. It’s just about hitting and more about power hitting and things like that. So I was more fascinated about picking that sport and yeah, eventually I played for two years for college team and that’s it. After that I didn’t continue. Once I left Mounts, I didn’t continue.
Question (Mohit): Wow, I can see the passion for batting there in that statement. Did you start being in opening roles for your team or did you eventually get there?
Answer (Vanitha): I always wanted to be an opener but trust me, it was not easy for me because I don’t know if it’s a blessing in disguise or it’s a curse to be known as a power hitter. So they always wanted me to finish the matches, they wanted me to go and play those middle overs and play those big shots because we had some quality openers earlier on who was more technically sound, better and what. To be honest, when they kept talking about we want someone technically more sound, that sort of pushed me to go back and work into my basics about in terms of cricket, wanted to go back and OK, fine, what is the technique that they want to or they’re talking about? So even I want to sort of get to that. If not being perfect somewhere, if I could get closer to being perfect, that’s an achievement for me. So that’s how I took that as a challenge from middle order to an opener. I went back and I worked really hard in terms of technique, it was very later on in my career that I focused a lot about technique and the nuances of technique.
Question (Mohit): Yeah, it seems very glorifying from the outside, but I’m sure this is very challenging both physically and mentally, given that in a cricket match, any sports for that sort, right, I think there are like in soccer, the pressure is there are the strikers and then here in cricket, the parallel is essentially the openers, right? You said the momentum of the game. Most of the people essentially are in a way you can say mindset towards the match depends on how you perform, essentially, Right? Yeah. So that would have been amazing. We can say physical and mental conditioning. There’s a little bit about the mental angle of this because what I’ve heard is that you’ve practiced through various visualization techniques that you keep talking about. Would love to understand how for our folks who are listening, who are basically interested in sports themselves, what are some of the things that you tried to keep your calm?
Answer (Vanitha): I’m not a calmer person, to be honest. I had to put in a lot of effort. That’s where my mental skill, my mental toughness was tested to the max simply because I was someone who was very aggressive. I love trying new things and someone who gets bored very quickly. So it was very challenging. When you have these kind of characters, you as a character, it gets very difficult for you to stick to certain things. And that’s what we call it as process. I was so fortunate that I came across a lot of people who sort of insisted that I try some of the methods to get me focused and narrowed down the wider vision of what I was having and channelise my focus in terms of what I want to achieve. It started from 2013, I think I started reading sort of I started getting into books. I started more spiritual books. Not in terms of religious, but overall spiritual books. That sort of gave me an idea about how I need to channelize my mind, how I need to channelize my energy. I got an idea from there on. I practiced meditation, a lot of breathing technique. And then after coming to Invictus is where I figured out a complete pattern in terms of how I can keep my focus without being drained out. Earlier when I used to try out all those methods, it was more draining out. But then my focus, like I said, it was all about channelizing. I used to always focus on channelizing my energies and focus. So all of these things helped me in terms of visualization. Yes, it’s the biggest tool that a cricketer can have because we all insist and talk about a visualization. It’s the biggest power one can possess. I’m telling you. That is because it’s not easy to foresee before you could do anything and if you could just do that the next day, it was an achievement for us. That’s the feeling we used to get. Like, for example, I used to visualize cover drive just before going into sleep. And then next day I would play a perfect cover drive like I visualized. So these are the things over a period we trained not to over visualize and not to do under visualize also. So we had to draw a line, probably a mark where you’re not overdoing, you’re not under doing it. So over a period it becomes straining and through breathing and some of the eye-drills the last three or four years it made a massive difference for me. It become more natural than trying to consciously put something across into my system.
Question (Mohit): Right. So sort of like finding the balance with visualization is also important because it takes a lot of energy is what you’re basically saying. Yeah. So you would do it right before the match days maybe leading up to tournament? I would say I would do it just before going into bed because it just plays through my mind and when I’m sitting in the dressing room for maybe a minute or two, that’s about it. Like I said, it takes a lot of mental energy, it drains you out very quickly. That’s a great input for all the listeners out there interested in sports this is a must try for sure. What would you do before the match? Just right before the match? There are a few things that we know from let’s say for example people used to say that Sachin used to listen to Dire Straits for you to step out to bat and specifically Sultans of Swing, right? So what was that it feel for you?
Answer (Vanitha): It’s a very strange thing but I wouldn’t talk to anyone before going into bat. Right before going into bat. That is simply because like I said, for me it was all about analyzing my energy. Talking also used to dreamy or before matches so I would avoid conversation before my batting particularly and also had some of the routines like just before going into the match in the room, just before heading into the ground. I would start my day with some meditation, breathing exercise and the visualization and over a period I developed some hand-eye drills and when my body is extremely sore and stiff I would do some yoga stretches and then head to the mats. So these are my constant routines over the last seven, eight years. I ensured that I kept doing this in and out to have the same routine before heading into the match.
Question (Mohit): Super cool. Some of these are really interesting, I think not just from a physical performance perspective, but also the lesson for me at least is that I think you mentioned subliminally that you have to start practicing some stuff like for example breathing from your ritual and then eventually becomes muscle memory for you. Your body starts
understanding how to sort of like behave when you give it natural cues. That’s really cool and really interesting. That’s largely on the mental part and I’m assuming being an opener, the mental part and the physical part would have both been equally challenging and balancing both would actually be quite a priority. Tell us a little bit about the physicality of the sport as well. Like how do on the physical common side, what were some of the key learnings that you had in your career and especially during injuries, right? Because that’s one of the topics where many athletes struggle to figure out what’s the best way to handle an injury, get out of it, recover from it, and then avoid it. It’s really hard to sometimes avoid an injury, but how do you actually mentally and physically deal with an injury?
Answer (Vanitha): It’s not easy, injuries just drain you out more than physically, it’s the mental, it’s more mentally draining that’s because day in and out. You have to do. You’re not sure how well you’ll recover, you’re not sure how quickly you’ll get back, especially if you’re missing out on matches. Someone who missed out World Cup because of injury. So I know the feel, I know the pain of missing a big event like an ICC, even World Cup, representing your country, and you get to miss all that. It is something which will drain you off completely. And what is the challenging thing is that when you’re going through such moments, you will not recover physically also because mentally you’re down. So that’s when the first few injuries of mine earlier on my career, it was taking more longer time than the last few injuries that I had, was simply because I sort of figured out that through physical ability, or rather through mentally, I could just channelize my physical recovery. So that’s where I started focusing, being more optimistic, being more positive and my body language, and going to rehab every day with a smile on my face. And then being hopeful that I would get back to the cricket field and then continue to do what I’ve always done. But like I said, during this period, what is even more challenging is when you’re injured, you know, you have to keep off from certain food, you will have to keep off from certain meal. Even more challenging is that you have to be even more watchful than what you are when you’re normal, when you’re playing at full fledged. So all these things are very challenging as an athlete. Like I said, what keeps us going is being optimistic, being hopeful that yes, we will come back early, but a lot of mental drill has to go through it. I was fortunate that the last few years I was surrounded with positive people, because that brings the best out of you when you’re going in a roof where people are coming in and constantly telling yes, we can put this through. Yes, you can get back very quickly. These are the things you would want to hear as an athlete. There are times where I’ve given up on myself. But I was so fortunate that I had people who had a lot of trust in me, who kept pushing me to go further. I was really fortunate. In that case, it’s very important to surround yourself amongst positive people that brings huge influence in you.
Question (Mohit): I think that’s a phenomenal advice. The amount of difference energized group of people around you make versus, let’s say, because when the circumstances change, the people around you change sometimes, right? And I think if the people around you are motivating and highly energized, I think mostly there are not many problems in life that you can’t overcome. So I think that’s a phenomenal advice. I really appreciate you sharing that. What’s really interesting also for me personally, I think hearing this is the fact that the realization the injuries are both mental and physical issues in some ways, right? And the framework around forming an injury, like getting an injury and how do you recover from it, having that clarity is very mature. It’s really cool. Yeah, that’s right. Extending that a little bit. You mentioned food somewhere along the way. How’s your relationship with food? Like, tell us a little bit about it.
Answer (Vanitha): I’m a big foodie. I have a big weakness. Or rather I would say sweet tooth.
(Mohit): That makes two of us.
(Vanitha): Sweet tooth. It’s not for anything. I need my Indian sweets. I don’t crave for any pastries, but I need my Indian sweets. I need it all the time when I’m depressed or when I’m low in energy. There are a lot of faces that we see as an athlete. So sweets is something which kept me going. There are instances where when I get out at zero, the first thing I would come back and do in the dining room is just go to the food corner which is placed right in the dressing room. I would just directly start eating sweets just for me to quickly enhance my mood and get better. Because I know I have scored a zero. I can’t have a long face in the dressing room. So I need to be all right. I need to cheer for my team. These are the small little tricks I would do with the food. Like I said, it’s all mental. But yeah, through food to some of the physical moments, I used to get better mentally also. So food was my big go to for anything. Like if I feel sad or if I feel low, if I’m happy, everything for me is food. Obviously, when you’re a foodie, and especially, like I said, when you’re sad, especially injury time, there’s a lot that you want to quickly change over your mood. But that’s also another challenging thing is that, you know, you’re not in a normal phase, so you will have to avoid eating all that. That becomes really challenging. That’s where I feel for me as an athlete was very challenging. To refrain from some of the foods and then still try and be positive, try and be in a good mood was something which was very challenging for me. So over a period, I figured out that, okay, I could do it through watching movies and things like that. But still for the end of the day how I feel satisfied is just going back to food. So nothing can replace food.
Question (Mohit): I completely resonate with that. I can totally feel your pain on that front. Being a fellow Bangalorean okay, I want to ask this what are some of your favorite places to eat in Bangalore? I’m still taking notes.
Answer (Vanitha): Earlier there was a restaurant called SLV. Now shut down. So Benne Dosa is something which I was very fond of over the last few years I’ve started eating Ragi Dosa. So that is another favorite of mine. Of course Biryani. Shivaji Military Biryani is still my favourite place. I won’t mind having two meals of Biryani back to back. I had that kind of appetite for Biryani. Biryani is my favourite. So these are the food whenever I feel like having something. So I don’t miss out on these foods because home made food. Also we have like good Idlis being made at home. Idli and chicken curry usual Sunday. I look forward for Sundays only because Idli and chicken curry. So that is something which I don’t miss out on a weekly. I do eat the kind of food that I want now although my lifestyle is completely different back ten years to now. But still if I indulge, I make sure the timing of it is right, now. So I’m happy indulging in some of the meat, especially the local dishes. I’m happy doing that.
Question (Mohit): That’s a really cool segue. Tell us a little bit about your experience with Cyborg since December. I think you’ve been on the platform since December, right? Did you get some of those insights from the platform?
Answer (Vanitha): First, I used it in the month of August. To be honest, that is when I had an idea about Cyborg and what is it all about. So Varun Shetty at Invictus to make this he said because he sort of knew that he knows I have this thing for sweet tooth and I’m drifting here and there. And also he felt I was under fueling mainly my recovery was not good. The next day I would come back not fresh, tired all the time. It’s still recovering from the previous day training and all of those things. But that’s when he said okay, I wanted you to get onto this so that I could just track I’ll keep an eye on you and what are the food that you’re having and things like that. I said, okay, fine. So I had to immediately travel to Bengal for my matches so I could not be in town. Oh, that’s when it was really, really, you know, it helped me a lot. And also it was very challenging because the way I could see myself when I fueled right. How my energy was because I was all alone. At least back in Bangalore I have people monitoring me but away it was really challenging because I had to literally look after it and I was like, thank God Cyborg was there because the fueling aspect or even after a good workout, how the spike level is to do, how the spikes were up and down. So it gave me a complete idea about how my training is, how a professional athlete, what are the tricks that one he or she could do in terms of fuelling. So I had a clear picture about fuelling there some of the things that I kept away for instance, I always thought white rice was not that good for me but when I had white rice the levels was unbelievable. I didn’t have a spike at all when I had white rice. Whereas whereas a millet would give me around 40 50 difference of spikes, I thought, okay, maybe because it’s giving me such a spike, that helped me in terms of timing my meal. For instance, I would have millet for dinner. I would find it difficult to fall asleep. So I had to revamp a bit about the timing and all that. So change a bit, alter a bit. So what I did was I started having somewhere around 11:00-12:00. So that is when I need the maximum energy to push through the day. So these are the tricks I sort of started following using the Cyborg and of course that gave me a little bit of courage to use towards adding more sweets because Bengali, if you’re in Bengal and Bengali sweets are the best thing. So I used to indulge every now and then but hardly any spike. But at the same time, I didn’t get carried away saying, that okay, there’s not much. But everything was in moderation. So that helped me overall when I got back to Bangalore also I was much better in terms of shape, in terms of space, in terms of my fitness. Overall, I felt like a completely different person after coming back from Bengal.
(Mohit): I’m going to ask you for your recommendation list right after the podcast. You seem to have a really fun food recommendation list. I love a lot of these joints and foods that you mentioned. I think big fan myself as well. Lovely. But I think it’s fascinating, right? I think the world of food but I think at the same time I think the learning for me also has been the fact that what’s conventionally qualified as healthy food or unhealthy food is very, very context dependent. The most fundamental doubt that people have in terms of, let’s say sugars, let’s take an example is how processed sugar is different from non-processed sugar like sugar and jaggery. Yeah and I’ve come across like numerous cases including one of myself when I used to think for a long, long time that Jaggery is all cool, white sugar is the real reason why people are I mean, it’s a real devil, right? But what I realized is that the difference is really minuscule from a glycemic index perspective. That’s true. If you have to moderate, you have to moderate both and same thing was with millets and one of the most favorite food for me would be like the North Karnataka Thali, which had a lot of you can say Jowar, different types of fibrous vegetables. I still love it. But the fact that I now understand how much to eat because some of these meals are buffets, so you can really it’s a slippery slope. Yeah. So I think finding the right balance almost always becomes I think it’s probably the right way for your own body because what’s conventionally called as healthy and what’s not healthy. Probably there is a huge gap when it comes to your own human biology.
(Vanitha): That’s what we understood using the Cyborg. Even if I indulge in a meal or two, I’m okay. But overall, I don’t know about overall fitness. But yes, in terms of mentally, I’m in a much better space because I’m getting to eat everything in moderation now. And at least some device which is in me inside my body is giving a proper data rather than just going vaguely by what we read and what we hear. Something related to me is showing the exact data. So that maybe that is why the headspace is also better. Ever since I’ve gotten to Cyborg, to be honest.
Question (Mohit): That’s really cool. I think that’s a great way to articulate this. So, moving on, I think what we know is that you’re looking at a new chapter in your life, right? And we’d love to really talk to our audience about it. What does the new phase of life look like for you? And how are you approaching this mentally, physically? What would be some of the goals that you can share with us, some of the things that you would want to do in the next few years?
Answer (Vanitha): The last one month, it was really difficult in terms of how everything has just come to an end. But what is keeping me in a good space right now is the acceptance that, yes, it’s all over now. It’s time for me to move on and then look forward. And that’s when I become much more positive as a person now. And coming forward, I’ll be sort of taking up roles more about coaching, mentoring, and because I myself will have to educate in terms of how I need to go about. So the next few years is all about leading and coaching. Of course, I train myself the best that I could keep elevating myself as an athlete. I feel I’m still an athlete, so I’ll try and elevate on that aspect and then try and bridge the gap between what I felt we did not get as an athlete to now being a coach. How that I can sort of put it forward. So this is what I’m looking forward in terms of how I could go about the next few months. So this is what I have in mind. So I want to get into coaching and then mentoring. And these are the things I have in mind.
(Mohit): That is really motivating to hear. I think the fact that you mentioned that you’ll always be an athlete, I think truly resonate with you. Being an athlete is a mindset more than anything else. But I really appreciate you sharing so much with us and with so much passion. Also basically the kindness around basically your journey, love for food and your visualization techniques in sports. I’m sure there are a lot of lessons for listeners who are interested in sports or getting into sports because we are a very early sporting nation. I think we are in very early stages from becoming a complete sporting nation and I think all the credit has to go to athletes and sports people like you who are actually setting the right role model image as well as saying the right you can see cadence for people all around. I wish you all the very best with the next phase of your journey and I’m sure that will be super exciting and we’ll get time to connect very soon on that.
(Vanitha): Thank you. Thank you so much.
(Mohit): It was really nice talking to you. Thank you, Vanitha.
(Vanitha): And looking forward to many more interaction in the coming days, absolutely. Such a pleasure. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Outro (Mohit): That was fun, right? The ecosystem of Indian women’s cricket is still evolving, but Vanitha exemplifies how, with the right mindset and hard work, impossible is really nothing. With the help of mind hacks such as Visualization, Vanitha had an added advantage in her locker room, which her competing peers might not have had. So it’s not only hard play, but also smart play, something that all of us can apply to our routine and lifestyle as well. If you loved this episode and Vanitha’s life Journey, do share it with your family and friends. We’ll be back soon with more such exciting personalities and life stories. Stay tuned. See you soon with the next one.