Clean Bowled: Nagaland Skipper Limatola Ao On Cricket As A Career - Eastern Mirror
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Clean bowled: Nagaland skipper Limatola Ao on cricket as a career

By Moakala T Aier Updated: Apr 03, 2024 11:11 am
Limatola Ao
Limatola Ao

DIMAPUR — A cricketer by profession, affiliated with the Nagaland Cricket Association (NCA), Limatola Ao admitted that it was a stroke of luck that led her to this career path, as her initial passion was basketball.

It was in 2019 when Wati Imsong, head coach of the Indian Fast Bowling Centre, took Limatola under his guidance. Over the course of a month, he taught her the fundamentals of bowling, after which he facilitated her registration with the NCA. Subsequently, she underwent trials with NCA, where, to her surprise, she was selected on her maiden attempt.

The 33-year-old confessed that she harbored reservations about cricket initially, finding it slower-paced compared to the fast sports she was accustomed to, such as badminton and basketball. Switching from a quick to slower sport presented its challenges, she said. However, as she began playing, her love for cricket grew slowly but steadily.

The right-arm medium pacer, shared her perspective on cricket as a profession with Eastern Mirror.

For beginners, where should one start?

I advise enrolling in an academy to learn the fundamentals of cricket if someone is committed to pursuing a career in the game. It is important to start with the basics because, at the initial age, one can make the necessary corrections to guarantee that the player’s muscle memory is adapted to the movements. Numerous academies that train athletes in all facets of their development, including mental toughness, physical fitness, nutrition, and personal growth, can be found in India. Many academies also host summer camps for different age groups, where all the resources needed for athletes to develop are provided.

Limatola Ao

Can you share us the key requirements and skills needed for students who aspire to be in this profession?

If one wishes to play cricket while still a student, there are a few very important characteristics that can be helpful, in my opinion.

•             Learn to balance academic and athletic careers.

•             Ensure that nothing in their routine is impeding their learning.

•             Identify priorities and act on them.

•             Learn to multitask as it is a skill that is very crucial in today’s competitive world.

Lastly, since it is extremely competitive and challenging to join national or Indian Premier League/Women’s Premier League (IPL/WPL) teams, obtaining as much education as one can, will eventually help as a fallback plan if one decides to change careers.

What according to you are some factors individuals must consider before fully committing to this profession? 

For me, a strong work ethic, discipline, and consistent high-level performance are crucial aspects that require athletes’ attention. It is also necessary to possess certain qualities such as athleticism, energy, commitment, and knowledge of the game’s rules and regulations.

To excel in cricket, you need to have a solid understanding of the game, including terminology, equipment, and rules. Identifying your strengths and weaknesses as a bowler or batter and working to improve your skills is vital. By doing so, you can enhance your game and have a more enjoyable experience. Cricket demands peak physical condition and stamina, so a healthy diet and consistent exercise routine is essential. By maintaining physical fitness and endurance levels, you can perform at your best. Remember, if you are committed, disciplined, and hardworking, there are no limitations to pursuing a successful cricket career.

What are the steps to join a cricket academy, and what options are available for becoming a cricketer without attending an academy?

Joining an academy does not have to mean attending a professional cricket academy. If you want to make significant improvements to your cricket game every day, enroll in an academy with 30-50 students so that your coach can devote more time to you. Ensure that the academy participates in a variety of tournaments, which will provide you with hands-on experience during matches. Furthermore, by joining an academy, you will be surrounded by competitive teammates who will motivate you to perform better every day.

To answer your second question, it is not recommended to play cricket without first attending an academy because this is where we learn the fundamentals, and without these fundamentals, we will not be able to achieve our goals. For example, consider homeschooling and public schooling. Homeschooling provides an individual with all of the necessary knowledge but lacks social interaction, milestones, and additional activities.

So, the academy is where you will receive your corrections, ensuring that your muscle memory does not repeat incorrect movements and is corrected, which can sometimes result in injuries. Similarly, there is a significant difference between being taught in and out of an academy.

Can you share some cricket academies in India, and alternative career paths within the cricket industry?

The cricket community in Bangalore boasts of academies like RX Cricket Academy, N.I.C.E Academy, and Karnataka Institute of Cricket (KIOC), while Nexgen Cricket Academy in Hyderabad and CricketwithNagesh in Uttarakhand offer excellent training facilities.

Pursuing a cricket career can lead to various paths like umpiring, cricket analysis, scoring, presenting, journalism, coaching, and strength and conditioning training.

During strength and conditioning training
During strength and conditioning training

How can one effectively handle rejections, being dropped from tournaments, and bounce back stronger?

Here are some strategies I apply to handle my rejection and come back stronger:

Learn from experience: When faced with rejection, take it as an opportunity to grow and learn. Reflect on the experience and analyze your performance, skills, and mindset during the selection process. This self-reflection can be the key to identifying areas for improvement and developing a plan to become an even better version.

Seek feedback: It is important to remain hopeful and view each setback as a chance to learn and grow. Seek advice and focus on improving your weaknesses, while dedicating yourself to continuous practice.

Set realistic goals: Set realistic goals for yourself and work towards achieving them. Break down your goals into smaller, manageable steps that you can work on consistently. This approach can help you stay focused and motivated on your journey to success.

Continued practice: Dedicate yourself to continuous practice and improvement. Work on refining your skills, addressing any weaknesses, and staying updated with the latest techniques and strategies in the game. Consistent practice and improvement can increase your chances of success in future tournaments.

Turning setbacks into opportunities: I take advantage of this period to study and analyze my previous games, identifying areas for improvement and strategizing for future matches. This approach helps me maintain a positive mindset and make the most out of any situation, ensuring that I continue to develop as a player even when not actively participating in a tournament.

In cricket, competition is fierce, and selection is often subjective. Yet, it is crucial to concentrate on the things that you can control, such as your skills, attitude, and work ethic.

Limatola with her teammates
Limatola with her teammates

How does a typical training regime and schedule look like for cricketers over a period of time?

A typical training programme for a cricket player would involve a mixture of physical fitness, skill development, and mental preparation to guarantee peak performance on the field.

Physical fitness: This includes a combination of cardio exercises for stamina, strength training to improve muscle power, agility drills to enhance quick movements, and flexibility routines to prevent injuries. Fitness sessions are often tailored to individual needs and can occur 4-5 times a week.

Skill development: Practising cricket-specific skills forms the core of the training regime. These include – i) Batting sessions to work on technique, shot selection, and power hitting

ii) Bowling drills, focusing on accuracy, pace, spin, or swing depending on the bowler’s style.

iii) Fielding and catching exercises to improve reflexes, throwing accuracy, and overall agility on the field.

Net sessions: These are crucial for simulating match conditions, allowing players to practice batting and bowling against different types of bowlers or batsmen. Net sessions are typically held multiple times a week.

Team strategies: Understanding game tactics, analyzing opponents, and planning strategies are integrated into training sessions through video analysis and team meetings.

Mental toughness: Mental conditioning exercises, including visualization, goal setting, and stress management techniques, are incorporated to boost concentration, confidence, and coping mechanisms under pressure.

Nutrition and recovery: Diet plans are designed to fuel performance and recovery, while rest days and recovery sessions, including physiotherapy, massages, ice baths, swimming sessions, and stretching, are scheduled to prevent overtraining and injuries.

Match practice: Scrimmage games or practice matches are organized regularly to provide a real-game experience, helping to fine-tune team dynamics and individual roles.

These regimes are individualized, with adjustments made based on the cricketer’s role in the team, areas for improvement, and the cricket season’s demands.

How likely is it that women’s cricket will remain a prominent fixture in the sports world for the foreseeable future? 

In recent years, women’s cricket has been gaining momentum and recognition, as the popularity and visibility of women’s cricket leagues and tournaments worldwide have increased. The growth and popularity of women’s cricket have been aided by the active promotion and investment by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). In the domestic circuit, the BCCI has also commenced the introduction of WPL and domestic test matches.

The future of women’s cricket is looking brighter than ever! With the current trend, it is safe to say that this sport will only continue to flourish and captivate sports fans worldwide. So get ready to witness some thrilling matches and unforgettable moments – because women’s cricket is here to stay.

With increasing resources and support being directed towards women’s cricket, and more women and girls embracing the sport, it has the potential to become a highly recognized and respected player on the global sports stage.

In action during tournaments
In action during tournaments

Limatola’s notable achievements

•             Selected by All-India Women’s Selection Committee to attend the North-East Senior Women’s Camp 2021 in Kolkata

•             Felicitated by North-East Cricket Development Committee (NECDC) for topping the plate-group table in domestic cricket organised by BCCI for the season 2021-2022

•             First Captain of North- East Zone for Inter-Zonal T20 and One-day Tournament for two seasons 2022-2023, 2023-2024

•             Captain of Nagaland from the season 2022-2023 till date


Playlist suggestions for our readers

John Mayer’s Slow dancing in the burning room, Heart of life, Wild blue, Crossroads, ⁠Heart’s content (Brandi Carlile), and Grow as we go (Ben Platt).

Tour essentials

Cricket gears, jerseys, sun protection, notebook and pen, positive attitude, training accessories, supplements like protein powder and BCAA for recovery.

Self-discoveries brought about by cricket

More expressive, patient, and understanding of individuals’ psychology.

By Moakala T Aier Updated: Apr 03, 2024 11:11:00 am
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