Vrinda Dinesh was going about her business as usual in Raipur on Saturday. With a ball in hand, she was honing her leg-spin at the nets during a practice session.
She was blissfully unaware that, just over a thousand kilometres away in Mumbai, she was being fast-tracked into national prominence at the Women’s Premier League auction.
Vrinda, a 22-year-old who is currently leading Karnataka in the women’s Under-23 T20 trophy, emerged as one of the most sought-after players in the second WPL auction. She was snapped up by the UP Warriorz for a whopping Rs 1.3 crore.
Minutes later, another uncapped youngster, Kashvee Gautam would be purchased by the Gujarat Giants for Rs 2 crore. But it was only 30 minutes later that Vrinda would get to know through a teammate how she fared at the auction.
“I happened to overhear my teammate whisper to a colleague that I got picked for Rs 1.3,” Vrinda said in a media interaction.
“I was like, what, Rs 1.3 lakhs? And for a second I thought that’s not possible and then when she said Rs 1.3 crores… I mean it is something unbelievable.
“I never thought of it. I never expected it. And then [during practice] the batters left their batting, the keeper came, the coach came, everybody came and gave me a hug for a long time. It was genuine. It was very nice.”
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Vrinda started playing cricket professionally almost a decade back as a 13-year-old. It was her father Dinesh Subbappa, who played league cricket with the current Board of Control for Cricket in India president Roger Binny, who pushed her into it.
Just like a majority of women cricketers in India, she started off playing gully cricket with boys.
“My father, a few uncles, and a cousin brother used to play cricket,” she said. “My father, one day, put me into a summer camp just to see how it goes. And I have enjoyed it ever since. That’s when I started playing cricket professionally.”
Vrinda first broke into the senior state team in 2018. She played two matches then and was side-lined for the next two years. The youngster terms this phase as a turning point in her career.
“I sat out probably for 22 matches, and when I got back in 2020, I scored two back-to-back centuries in the Senior Women’s One-Day trophy,” she recalled. “That is the turning point in my life. Those two years that I sat out, I worked extremely hard. I wanted to make sure I played the next match, the next season.”
Karnataka reached the final of the Senior Women’s One-Day Trophy for the first time that season, riding on Vrinda’s heroics.
However, what really put Vrinda on the radar of the franchises ahead of the WPL auction was the runs she scored in the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy this season. Batting at the top of the order for Karnataka, the right-handed batter has accumulated 211 runs at a stunning strike rate of 154.
It was unlike the Vrinda who first broke out on the domestic circuit. She has consciously worked on her power-hitting over the past couple of years and is now reaping the rewards.
“To get to the stage where I’ve been hitting now, it probably took me two years where I tried to work on my shots day in and day out,” she said.
Vrinda credits her coach of five years Kiran Uppoor, for her transformation as a batter.
“When I first met him [Uppoor], I was more of a Test player,” she explained. “But then one day I spoke to him saying I want to bat like a Virat Kohli or a Meg Lanning, I want to develop such game. Ever since he has always supported my dream.”
Such was the impact of her performances that Vrinda was called up for trials by all the five franchises ahead of the WPL auction. She will now potentially be opening the batting for UP Warriorz alongside Australian captain Alyssa Healy.
“I just love how Healy bats and how destructive she is,” Vrinda said. “She is someone I have always looked up to. I like the way she bats and it is something I try doing here. To play alongside her, Tahlia McGrath, Danni Wyatt, Sophie Ecclestone, is going to be surreal. I have always thought of it, but I never imagined it to be happening to me.”
For an uncapped player to be going for such a high sum of money, her performances will be under scrutiny. And there will be expectations.
But she is quick to quash any notion of her feeling any pressure when match day arrives.
“[The price tag] is not something in my hands, I have just been picked and I just want to give my best,” she said.
“I do not think this price tag is going to make much of a difference because at the end of the day, I am just here to play and enjoy the sport.”
Vrinda had played a vital role in India’s title win at the ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup earlier this year coming in as a last-minute replacement and was also a part of the England A series this month.
She will now have to battle it out with the likes of the Under-19 World Cup winning Shweta Sehrawat and the experienced Wyatt for that opener’s slot with Healy, come the second edition of WPL next year.