Singapore’s former captain has built a career by making the most of opportunities presented to her, including featuring in men’s club cricket.
When Singapore featured in the ICC Men's Twenty20 Qualifier in Dubai last month, an integral member of the national women's squad, who has played with many members of the men's squad over the years, was cheering for them.
Diviya GK, former captain of the Singapore women's side, has had a unique journey in the sport. She began playing with and against men early in her career, and became the first and only woman to ever play in the men's league. An off-spinner, she continues to play for the men's team of the Singapore Cricket Club.
"To play in the men's league, I needed to have certain calibre," she told the ICC. "The only things that were in my control were my skills and fitness. In terms of the skills, I focused on my bowling, because in batting, the men are way bigger than me. So I used to practise bowling three hours in the morning.
“I focused fully on my fitness. I still run eight to 10 km every morning. On my debut in 2013, I got four wickets (for Singapore Cricket Club) and won Player of the Match. Since then, I've been playing in the men's league.”
Diviya's association with cricket began early when a childhood rivalry with her cousins fueled her enthusiasm for the sport. She was also inspired by her uncle, Stacey Muruthi, who has skippered the Singapore men's team in the past.
"Whenever we had family gatherings, we only played cricket. My cousins used to tease me saying 'you're a girl, you can't play cricket'. So to prove a point, I picked up cricket. Never stopped since. I love the sport, it is a part of me now," she said.
Diviya's journey has not been easy. While she completed her undergraduate degree in clinical science at the Charles Sturt University in New South Wales, financial constraints meant she was unable to pursue higher education in medicine.
"I had to accept that financially we couldn't afford it,” she said, about abandoning her aspirations in medicine. “I believed God had a plan for me. One by one I had job opportunities. They kept coming, and I kept saying yes to everything.”
Diviya's training in medicine continues to help her tremendously as a cricketer. She understands fitness better, knows how to deal with injuries, and has a single-minded focus on her diet and nutrition.
One of the biggest factors behind the 32-year-old's success has been her mother, who raised her as a single parent, and remains the guiding light for Diviya. "I am who I am and I am where I am only because of my mother. She's my role model. All credit goes to her," she said.
Diviya was a part of a special T20 exhibition match between FairBreak XI and the Sir Paul Getty XI last year. Stars such as Alex Blackwell, Suzie Bates and Charlotte Edwards were also involved. The FairBreak XI side had 12 players from 11 countries, including seven Associate nations.
"No words to describe it," she said of the match. "It was incredible to play with them [Bates and Blackwell] and to play against Edwards as well. It gave me a lot of confidence.
“When we had net sessions and match practice, you could see that you could play against them, that they were struggling against you. It gave me the belief that although I'm from an Associate country, I am good enough.”
While Singapore women haven't quite found their feet in international cricket yet – they've won two out of nine T20Is – Diviya says that the consistent efforts from the Singapore Cricket Association will soon beget success. The blueprint for that, she believes, has already been set by the men's team.
"We need to be exposed to more games, which is what the cricket association is doing for both the men's and women's teams," she said. "We can see the results with the men's team already, how far they've come. We hope to follow the same path."
As told to Rupin Kale