‘No! That’s My Niece!’: The Wini Duraisingam Story
Malaysia and Tornadoes all-rounder Wini Duraisingam spoke to Jay about her career and her cricketing origins
When she was ten years old, the boys in the neighbourhood didn’t want Winifred Duraisingam to play with them.
‘They were scared [that I’d get hurt] because I was so young at the age of 10,’ recounts the Malaysia and Tornadoes all-rounder in conversation with All Over Cricket.
‘So my uncle came up to me and said, “It’s okay. I’ll teach you how to bowl”. He came up with this rule that whoever takes a wicket, they go into bat. So he taught me how to bowl and I started taking the boys’ wickets,’ exclaims Wini as a grin breaks out on her face.
‘They were all so shy looking at me because a young girl was taking their wickets, but [even after batting] I realized that I enjoyed bowling more, so I said “It’s okay. I’ll just bowl”.’
With obvious talent and a passion for the game, Duraisingam’s uncle, who was also her first-ever coach, encouraged her to play competitively for their regional club, Kuala Langat Club. In a game against the Royal Selangor Club, she dismissed legendary Malaysian cricketer Hector Durairatnam. Impressed by the gifted youngster, Durairatnam walked up to Wini’s uncle and asked him, ‘Who is that young boy who got my wicket?’
To which Wini’s uncle replied, ‘No! That’s my niece!’
The Malaysian legend was taken aback. Yet, he knew that Wini would be a star for the national team. Along with the national selectors who were present at the game, he urged Wini to start training with the Malaysian team.
In 2007, at the age of 14, she was selected for both Malaysia’s U-19 and senior teams. Toward the end of 2008, she was part of a Malaysian outfit that finished as runners-up in the ACC Under-19 Women’s Championship, beating Hong Kong in the semi-final by 2 runs.
A year and a half later, she had firmly established herself as one of the first names on Malaysia’s team sheets and was rewarded for this by being appointed the Under-19 captain. Soon after, and rather true to form, she was also given the captain’s armband for the senior team.
Duraisingam has served as Malaysia’s skipper for more than a decade since. In the last few years, she has begun to take even more responsibility, gradually moving up from the lower middle order to the top order. She batted at three throughout the 2017 Southeast Asian Games, where she top-scored in consecutive games against Singapore and Thailand.
However, Duraisingam truly started to blossom as an opener in early 2020. In the final of the Malaysia Super Women’s League — a tournament that featured international players such as Thailand’s Thippatcha Putthawong, Vanuatu’s Selina Solman, and Singapore’s Diviya GK — she top-scored with 61 in a last-ball finish, which she highlights as the best innings of her life.
‘First, as a cricketer, you must be fit so you can handle your bowling and your batting. I pushed myself with fitness and that’s why I [started batting] higher and higher and higher,’ says Duraisingam, who doubles down on her desire to lead from the front.
‘If I go up in the order, if I stay until the end, I can do something for the team. If I stay there, I can score fifty,’ she continues.
Unfortunately, just as both herself and Malaysian women’s cricket were gaining momentum, stringent COVID restrictions in Malaysia and even more draconian measures by governments across Asia meant that Malaysia wouldn’t play international cricket for the next two years.
2021 marked their return to the international fold with an encouraging campaign at the T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier. While she didn’t quite fire with the bat, Duraisingam bowled what was likely the over of the tournament against Hong Kong. Defending a below-par 101, she delivered a double-wicket maiden in the first over of the innings, which included a dream delivery to Tash Miles that started full on leg stump and straightened to trap the right-hander in front.
In spite of only winning two out of their five games at the Asia Qualifier, Malaysia were able to push Hong Kong, the UAE, and Nepal in encouraging displays against the three pre-tournament favourites. The main reasons behind this improved showing, as Duraisingam points out, are that the majority of their squad is now over the age of 18 and that Malaysia’s female cricketers are playing more regularly.
‘2019 we were lacking in experience. We didn’t have too many leagues, but now it is coming up slowly. Now the girls are more mature, they understand the game,’ she says.
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In a sign of the Malaysian Cricket Association’s growing commitment to the women’s game, in April 2021, they awarded playing contracts to 15 female cricketers, including Duraisingam, for a period of 12 months. While the remuneration isn’t high enough for all the players to commit to cricket full-time, it is a step in the right direction for an associate board that consistently ranks toward the top of ICC’s development and funding scorecard.
The benefits of regular game time and greater investment in the women’s game were on display at the Commonwealth Games Qualifier at the start of the year. Malaysia batted out their overs against leading associate Scotland, against whom they scored 117. In their next game against full members Sri Lanka, Duraisingam batted through the innings, scoring an unbeaten 42 in a total of 82.
And then came one of the biggest days in the history of Malaysian cricket. On the back of a flawless, and aggressive Powerplay display from Duraisingam and fellow seamer Ainna Hamizah, Malaysia restricted Kenya to 88 in their 20 overs before chasing down the target with 10 balls to spare. In jubilant scenes that made the front pages of sports sections, the entire Malaysian dugout ran onto the field with many players waving flags and screaming.
On a personal level, Duraisingam would soon have even more reason to celebrate. As she revealed to FairBreak Invitational presenter Lesego Poee in an interview released to the media, it was during the Commonwealth Games Qualifier that she got an e-mail from FairBreak founder Shaun Martyn inviting her to be part of the Invitational.
It was just reward for the Malaysian stalwart who has forged a reputation as a tenacious leader and aggressive bowler who isn’t shy of a dogfight. Needless to say, Wini has repaid Martyn’s faith in her, picking up seven wickets during the group stages of FBI 22 on the way to becoming a fan favourite.
In her first game against the Sapphires, she dismissed Kim Garth and Hong Kong’s Kary Chan in the same over to turn around a chase that the Sapphires looked to be controlling. Garth charged at the Malaysian, playing inside the line of an outswinger and was stumped by an elated Katey Martin who screamed out ‘Yes Wini!’ A few balls later, Wini bowled another outswinger, this time to left-hander Kary Chan, who could only manage to nick through to slip.
In her next game, with the Warriors requiring 37 off 24 for victory, she demonstrated her range and versatility, picking up the wickets of Mignon du Preez and Georgia Redmayne in the same over with a pair of slower balls. The Redmayne wicket was particularly impressive. Duraisingam delivered a wide slower ball outside the left-hander’s hitting arc, causing her to drag it with little power to long on. It was a classic death bowling plan, which Duraisingam executed to perfection.
Unsurprisingly, when it came time to announce the player-of-the-match award at the presentation ceremony that followed the game, her teammates could be heard chanting, ‘Watch for Wini! Watch for Wini!’ in reference to the smart watches awarded to each POTM.
Without a doubt, Winifred Duraisingam has been soaking in every moment during a dream tournament. There have never been as many eyeballs on her as there are right now, and nobody who has followed Malaysian cricket over the years can deny that she deserves the limelight.
Duraisingam has arguably been the standout associate player at the FairBreak Invitational. At a time when more and more T20 leagues are being announced across the world, perhaps scouts should consider this simple piece of advice:
‘Watch for Wini! Watch for Wini!’
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Very interesting and informative piece.