Late Indian cricketer A.G. Kripal Singh is a popular name in the annals of Chennai’s cricketing history. His ancestors migrated to erstwhile Madras from Amritsar back in the 19th century and have since gone on to cement their place among the city’s cricketing elites. A name oft-forgotten in the family’s fabled history is that of his wife Esmie Kripal Singh.
Esmie, along with others like Comala Gopinath, wife of former India cricketer C.D. Gopinath, late politician Visalakshi Nedunchezhiyan and J.B. Shah, former India captain Sudha Shah’s father, was one of the founding members and vice-president of the Tamil Nadu Women’s Cricket Association (TNWCA) in 1973. Esmie passed away on May 29, after battling early onset of Alzheimer’s, aged 88.
“My mother’s interest in the sport probably came about after she married dad. She would attend every game religiously and kept tabs on what was happening in the sport thereafter. She never played cricket though,” her son Arjan Kripal Singh, a former First-Class cricketer and BCCI match referee, remembers.
“We never had to ask her why she decided to get involved with the TNWCA. Cricket was so automatic in our household and so it was natural for us to see her do what she did,” says Malvika Mehra, Esmie’s daughter. Malvika was herself a junior level cricketer, a left arm spinner, until the pressures of employment forced her away from the sport.
“Back then, women taking up cricket would often be offered alternatives — table tennis, carrom — and told that we might get dark, not find a husband. At this time, we heard that the Women’s Cricket Association was formed and they were looking for state bodies to affiliate to. That’s when the Tamil Nadu Women’s Cricket Association was formed,” Sudha, one of the pioneers of women’s cricket in India, remembers.
Due to her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Esmie’s memory struggled towards the end, but Malvika points out that cricket never really left her mother.
“Sometimes, we used to ask mum if she wanted music or we should turn on the cricket. She loved music, but when asked, she would pick cricket,” she says.