A gift from Kiwiland

Maria Frances Fahey... a passion for coaching.-T. VIJAYA KUMAR

When M. S. K. Prasad, Director, Andhra Cricket Association, approached Maria Frances Fahey to join hands and shore up the fortunes of Andhra women’s cricket, she did not give much of a thought. She quickly packed her bags for an all-new experience. By J. R. Shridharan.

From the pleasant environs of Canterbury in New Zealand to the sultry ambience of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, Maria Frances Fahey, 29, a former Kiwi international woman cricketer, has come a long way — both as a traveller and a cricketing professional.

When M. S. K. Prasad, Director, Andhra Cricket Association, approached Fahey to join hands and shore up the fortunes of Andhra women’s cricket, she did not give much of a thought. She quickly packed her bags for an all-new experience.

Fahey joined the ACA Women’s Academy in Guntur in April 2012 on a three-year contract and in 16 months she has helped Andhra win the South Zone under-19 and under-16 titles thrice. She also marshalled the Andhra under-19 team that finished third at the National level in 2012.

“I love cricket for it has offered many opportunities to me. I liked playing in India and I am enjoying my stint with the ACA,” said the cricketer-turned-coach, who hails from Timaru, a port town.

For Fahey the only concern was communication and she felt she might end up with a 24x7 interpreter. “Surprisingly the girls’ understanding of English is a lot better than what I had expected. We are a multi-lingual team and each one is helping the other with translation. We use cricketing terms and demonstrations to help each other understand the game better.”

Fahey with a few Andhra woman cricketers who excelled in the All-India inter-zonal tournament.-V. RAJU

In fact, Fahey is also trying to learn Telugu but feels that the task is challenging as it has many dialects. “Self-belief is important for success. Along with techniques and drills I have imparted the art of believing in oneself. This feeling will help overcome many hurdles. Effective fielding can change the outcome of a match. The girls are throwing flat and hard. Pick-ups and throws are swift and perfect. Their anticipation is spot on.”

Fahey feels it is much easier to play in cooler conditions as the fatigue factor would be less and the player can recover fast. “The players sweat a lot in the sub-continent since the climate is hot and humid. Playing in different weather conditions and at different venues is the real test for any cricketer. It helps him or her to stand out from the crowd.” Former India stumper M. S. K. Prasad is all praise for the former New Zealand Cricket Academy member. “A good number of junior cricketers are showing promise and they have the wherewithal to play at the top level. Sneha Deepti was included in the senior Indian team for the Bangladesh tour and S. Meghana played for Board President’s XI against Australia. R. Kalpana, Ch. Jhansi Lakshmi along with Sneha and Meghana are in under-19 national camp. The credit should go to Fahey.”

Impressed by Fahey’s enthusiasm, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) sought her help to coach the under-19 Indian probables in Guntur this year. “She will also be coaching at the NCA under-19 women’s camp in Bangalore. Now that the BCCI has made ACA Women’s Academy the headquarters for Indian women’s cricket, more fascinating assignments are in store for Fahey,” said Prasad.

Incidentally no one from Fahey’s family had played cricket and the Kiwi feels that it was providential that she had become a cricketer. “The tours to India in 2003 and 2007 brought me closer to the country. I decided that India was the country that I wanted to be in after hanging my boots.”

However, for the affable New Zealander, food is an issue to be tackled on a daily basis. “I am managing with brown bread, boiled eggs, dry fruits, rotis and chicken dishes cooked with minimum masala. I do not think I will ever adjust to the hot Andhra chillies and spices but I am boldly trying to embrace the culture and food as much as possible,” Fahey signed off before her departure to Bangalore for a vacation.