Newly appointed Canterbury Magicians coach Maria Lankeshwar has overcome one of the biggest hurdles in her life to get where she is today.
In 2007, at only 22, Lankeshwar (nee Fahey) was diagnosed with chronic fatigue – a condition that would eventually put an early end to her cricket playing days.
She continued playing for the Magicians and the White Ferns for another four years with several stops in play in between. Then in 2011 she was given doctors orders to give it up altogether.
It wasn’t a decision she took lightly, but she knew her health was at stake and at 26 there was still plenty she could accomplish in the game.
“Mind-wise, I couldn’t wait to get back playing. But I had lost my immune system, the body began to crash and shut down. It was one of those things. No athlete wants to stop doing what they love.”
Lankeshwar thought things couldn’t get any worse. Then in February 2011 Canterbury was struck with an earthquake and, along with many others, her life took another turn.
The earthquake affected Lankeshwar’s health and her job badly. So when she was called up with an offer to take a 10-month contract in India with the Andhra Pradesh State cricket team, she took it willingly.
“It was really just to take an off season over there for 10 to 11 months, then it turned into a three-year contract and then that turned in to five years.”
Life began to look great again. So good she would meet her eventual husband Alex while in India and gain valuable experience in a cricket mad country.
“It was great getting the experience of taking teams of a different culture. It was completely different to the world we grew up in.”
The biggest differences living in India were of course climate and culture. She was coaching in temperatures up to 48 degrees celsius and everything she ate had a power hit of spice to it.
“It is wonderful when you are involved and fully immersed in their culture, it is just an amazing experience.
“Their passion for the game is unbelievable.”
She believes the difference between India making the Women’s Cricket World Cup final this year and New Zealand dipping out in the playoff stages were down to the cricketing culture and general support for the women’s game in India. India were responsible for knocking the White Ferns out of the cup in pool play.
Indian girls are encouraged to play cricket from a young age, to the point that their schooling is compromised for cricket training.
“It takes time, it is a massive nation with over a billion people. They’re cricket crazy and have a lot of support from the top.”
Lankeshwar said the White Ferns’ campaign was disappointing, however she had no doubt the team gave their all in the United Kingdom last month.
“No doubt they put everything into it in terms of preparation and the desire. It comes down to performance on the day and that is something that needs attention. iI is good to be winning matches outside of the world cup, that’s great. But when it comes to winning these one off performances every four years, that’s something maybe we need to look at.”
She couldn’t be happier about coming back to Christchurch for her two-year contract.
She wants to continue the good team culture already at the magicians and create an environment where players can excel she said.
“We want to keep up with the women’s game, it’s an exciting brand of cricket. We want it to be a game people want to come and watch, we want to increase awareness. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”
Article courtesy of Stuff
Images courtesy of Photosport & Matthew Lewis