28 February 2020. Shushanthika opened the innings for the Tamil Nadu Under-19 team against Chhattisgarh. The team needed 168 to win in their 50 overs.
47.5 overs later, Tamil Nadu picked up the win, and she stood unbeaten at 96. She ended that edition with two more half-centuries. Having made her U-19 debut in 2016/17, She was in form of her life at that time.
A few days earlier, she helped White Warriors to lift the Freyer One-Day Trophy with 34(43) and 3/8. “For the past couple of years, TNCA has been conducting these matches (Freyers Tournament). These matches have helped us(players) get into the state team. They have been able to find a lot of new talents”, Shushanthika says.
Freyer Trophy has also provided an opportunity for youngsters to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in Tamil Nadu, including international cricketers Niranjana Nagarajan, D Hemalatha, Thirushkamini. “Playing with the most experienced cricketers has helped me improve my standards. Their mental and physical toughness towards the game is exceptional”, she adds.
Backed by consistent performances, Shushanthika became the captain of the team in the last edition of the Women’s U19 One Day Trophy. She was also a part of India B which lifted the U19 Challenger Trophy.
“Captaining TN for the first time was a different experience. The approach and my role in the team were new, which had more responsibility,” she says.
The Chennai youngster took up professional cricket only at 14. She was into tennis before making the switch. “I started playing tennis at the age of four. After a few years, I understood that tennis wasn’t my cup of tea. I watched IPL(Indian Premier League), and I couldn’t understand anything, that’s when my appa wanted me to try cricket. Initially, I was sceptical about his idea. Eventually, I decided to give it a shot since I had nothing to lose. I started playing cricket at the age of 14”.
Eldest of the two siblings, Shushanthika credits her family and says she draws inspiration from them. “After all the sacrifices they went through, my family is my inspiration. They have never lost hope in me and have been my support system from day one”.
Her professional cricket journey began with VB Cricket Academy under the late VB Chandrasekhar. “Under VB sir’s guidance, I was able to learn the game and the techniques quick. He was my biggest support and my mentor.“
In 2019, VB Chandrasekhar passed away by suicide. It did impact everyone around him.
“It was the hardest news for me to digest”.
She also credits her current coach Abdul Malik for grooming her technique. “Abdul Malik sir helped me to groom my techniques. He has motivated me during my lean patch.”
In the past couple of years, many major tournaments got postponed due to the pandemic, and one of them was the inaugural edition of the Women’s U19 World Cup.
A two-year delay means Shushanthika will miss the U19 World Cup. “The pandemic has put a full stop to my U-19 World Cup dream”, she says. “It’s a great platform for all the upcoming cricketers.”
She is all set to move on and is currently looking forward to the Women’s IPL which could be a reality in 2023.