(February 15, 2022) The athletic Karthika Vijayaraghavan enjoyed playing some gully cricket growing up in Bengaluru. Yet, life had other plans for the sporty girl, something out of the realms of ordinary existence – Going to Germany, and becoming the wicketkeeper of the German national women’s cricket team. The 33-year-old Indian-German cricketer is now making a mark on the international arena as part of the Golden Eagles. She also plays for the Frankfurt Cricket Club.
Sporting since childhood
Karthika’s childhood in Bengaluru was spent playing basketball since fourth grade. “We had a new basketball court in my school, and my parents enrolled me in summer camp. In the end, I emerged as the best player. I was always running around and practicing on the track field opposite Kanteerava Stadium. Despite my newfound love for basketball, I kept playing cricket in the summers. I’d be the only girl playing with boys on the street. I knew I was good at the game, but I never thought I’d take it up professionally. I possessed profound knowledge,” the Indian-German cricketer Karthika says in an exclusive with Global Indian.
Her gully cricket days aside, something substantial occurred in basketball – she became the captain of the RVCE basketball team, and led the squad to victory, bagging the VTU university trophy. “I also represented the university in basketball. I played at corporate cricket tournaments too, in one, I was the best player and won the trophy,” smiles the Indian-German cricketer.
Bengaluru to Berlin
Karthika married her husband Vijayraghavan, whom she met on a matrimonial site, eight years ago. They connected through their love for sport, as he was a cricketer and tennis player. The couple moved to Germany in 2015. On a trip back home, she spotted a Facebook ad, seeking women who play cricket in Germany. Her husband, an opening batsman for a club there, suggested she apply. To her delight, Karthika found her game was still strong, despite the novelty of having to play with a hardball, and all the protective paraphernalia of the game. Accustomed to a tennis ball bouncing on the streets, with teammates who wouldn’t dream of wearing padding, the change took some getting used to. “It was hard initially as they were all heavy. But eventually, my husband and I started playing for the club TVP Ludwigsburg in Stuttgart,” reveals the Indian-German cricketer.
— Frankfurt Cricket Club (@FrankfurtCric) September 28, 2021
The physical exertion had left her with multiple blood clots on her arms and legs but she persevered. Discovering a renewed love for the game, she was enthused. “The then-coach Matt, two senior players, and our manager came in for the regional coaching sessions. Back then, I was an all-rounder who bowled medium-pace and was a right-handed batter. They were impressed with my energy and cricket knowledge. So, I was asked to join the national team’s practice sessions. The first time I played cricket with the national team was at practice sessions. It didn’t go well – I had Tina (our vice-captain) and Anu (the current captain) bowling at me. I was bowled out at first ball! I took it up as a challenge and started practicing hard,” says the gritty athlete, who currently plays for the Frankfurt Cricket Club.
When the national team came calling
A player must reside in Germany for at least three years to qualify for the national team. Although Karthika’s talents had been noticed, the all-important call did not come till mid-2018. She played her first game for Germany in Ashington, England. Three years ago, she represented Germany in the T-20 qualifiers too.
Last year’s qualifier game against Scotland was one she will not forget in a hurry. “There was a sudden collapse in the top order batting. I went into bat when the score was 17-7,” she recalls. Determined to play the full 20 overs, she and her teammate, conversing in Kannada, vowed they would “go on no matter what. But then, my mate got out. I built a fortress around myself and decided to defend. I faced 24 balls and got 6 or 7 runs. Even that small score upped my confidence levels. I hardly get to bat since we have a good top order, but whenever I’ve gotten a chance, I am not out,” smiles the Indian-German cricketer.
Agility, on and off the field
Her quick reflexes, energy and liveliness are great traits for a wicketkeeper. Coach Michael came up to her one day, saying, “I’ll give you three months to prove that you’re a good keeper, and the place is yours.” She watched countless videos of her favourite player, Sarah Taylor, of Dinesh Karthik, Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni. “I then asked my husband to give me throwdowns. After three months, I ended up becoming the wicketkeeper for the national team,” she gushes.
Interestingly, Vijayaraghavan has two other teammates from Bengaluru – Anuradha Doddabalapur and Sharanya Sadarangani. Needless to say, they enjoy bantering in Kannada! “It’s nice to have them around. They’re more experienced as they’ve played in Karnataka as well. It feels great to be playing with Anu as my captain,” says the Indian-German cricketer who trains five times a week. “During lockdown and winter, I have been doing specific drills related to wicket-keeping and batting. I also train in badminton and basketball twice a week for a club near home in Steinenbronn,” concludes Karthika.
Cricket in Germany
As of February 14, 2022, Germany is 25th in the ICC T20I rankings. Internationally, Karthika has played in two T20I European World Cup qualifiers, the German Oman bilateral series 2020, Germany Austria Bilateral series 2020 and the Germany France Bilateral series 2021. “I have played all the matches with the team since Germany received its T20I ICC status,” Karthika says.