Diviya becomes first woman to play in SCA men's Div 2 league

Diviya G.K., who received the club cap from Singapore Cricket Club captain Richard Stapley-Oh, should play abroad to further hone her skills, say pundits. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Diviya G.K., who received the club cap from Singapore Cricket Club captain Richard Stapley-Oh, should play abroad to further hone her skills, say pundits. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Showing poise, Diviya G.K. impressed with her tally of 4-24 in eight overs in the Singapore Cricket Club Cougars’ win over Marina 1. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Showing poise, Diviya G.K. impressed with her tally of 4-24 in eight overs in the Singapore Cricket Club Cougars’ win over Marina 1. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

She is the first woman to play in SCA men's Division 2 league

When Diviya G.K. came on to bowl at the Singapore Cricket Association's (SCA) ground at Kallang yesterday afternoon, the all-male Marina 1's batsmen at the crease probably thought the runs were there for the picking.

But the captain of the national women's team soon had them in a tizzy with her tantalising off-spin.

Showing hardly any nerves, given that she was playing in the SCA men's Division Two league for the first time, the 26-year-old had a Marina 1 batsman lbw in her fifth over.

Then, in her eighth, she picked up three more wickets, including two off two balls, to hasten the opponents' dismissal for 124.

With her figures of 4-24 in eight overs, the diminutive Diviya towered over her Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) Cougars team-mates, all of whom were male, with her performance.

"She was extremely consistent, much better than our bowlers," said T.M. Sridharan, 30, the captain of Marina 1 who lost the match by six wickets.

"She had subtle variations which were difficult for our batsmen to pick.

"Importantly, she was not intimidated. She was fit and enthusiastic and showed that she was equal to us."

Richard Stapley-Oh, 38, the SCC captain, felt that Diviya was an asset to his side. "She was excellent. She bowled a tight spell and did what was asked of her. She fitted well into our team."

Apart from her impressive debut performance in Division Two, Diviya created a record in Singapore cricket when she became the first woman to play at this high level in the SCA league, which has six divisions.

"No other woman has played at this level before," said SCA scorer and statistician Nasir Abbas, 63, who has been linked to local cricket for the past 40 years.

"She is good, works hard and deserves to play in the second division."

Former national player and reputed coach Rex Martens, 52, said: "Undoubtedly, she is the first woman to play in Division Two. It is good for our cricket.

"This will attract more local women to play the game."

Those who have been following Diviya's progress in recent years are not surprised that she has been found good enough to figure in the men's Division Two.

Previously, she had played in Division Six for the national women's team and Division Five for the SCC as well as in the boys' U-16 SCA league.

She also played men's club cricket in Australia with Waratahs in Darwin in 2008 and Cavaliers in Orange, New South Wales in 2011.

"She was impressive at the Division Five level but we had made it clear to her that she has to earn her place in our Division Two team," said SCC's cricket convenor Trevor Larbey, 46.

"We gave her as many games as possible and found that she is keen, trains hard and has a good rapport with the boys.

"In fact, she was an easy pick for our Division Two side. As she proved today, she can bowl and field much better than most of the others. And she could play regularly for our second team."

Diviya started playing cricket at 12 in the void deck below her grandmother's flat in Ang Mo Kio along with her cousins Peter, James, Anish, Prasheen and Navin, who have all represented the nation at various age groups.

"I was also inspired by the deeds of my uncle Stacey Muruthi (the former Singapore captain)," said Diviya, who is currently pursuing a Bachelor of clinical sciences course at the Charles Sturt University in Orange, New South Wales, Australia - and doing a semester from Singapore.

"I could not play cricket in school because it was not available. So I played tennis for St Margaret's Secondary and hockey for SCC.

"I got to play cricket regularly only after the SCA started the national women's team in 2006."

Diviya, who has been the national women's team captain since, has had some impressive performances at the Asian level.

Singapore currently rank 10th out of 11 teams, not including the four Test-playing nations.

At the Asian Cricket Council Women's Championship in January, she was the top scorer (136 runs in six innings, with a highest of 52) and wicket-taker (six wickets at an average of 15 with a best of 2-21) for Singapore.

"In terms of fitness and technique, I have gained a lot from the tips given by (SCA coach) Chetan (Suryawanshi)," said Diviya.

"(Indian coach) Pradeep Ingale has helped improve my bowling and (Australia's) Trevor Chappell my fielding.

"Rex Martens has also given me the opportunities to learn more about the game."

During her spare time, Diviya coaches at the Rex Martens Cricket Academy, Raffles Institution and Tanglin School.

"I'm always striving to be better," she added. "I'm getting confident and I hope to get more opportunities so I can challenge and improve."

Given that women's cricket in Singapore is still nascent, Martens reckons Diviya has to play outside the country regularly to improve her skills.

"She is a fighter and always looking to learn and improve. But to play at a higher level, she, like my cousin Melanie (the Singapore women's hockey great), who had a stint in Western Australia, has to go out of Singapore," he said.

"She has to play in either Australia or the UK and I'm sure she'll be a better player."

santosh@sph.com.sg