Bangalore: Every time women's cricket is talked about, the one name that inevitably crops up is that of Shantha Rangaswamy, the "Prima Donna of women's cricket in India". Even years after she quit playing, the first subject of any conversation concerning women's cricket till date has been Shantha. The impact she has left on the game is such that women's cricket and her name have become inseparable.
The first lot of players had a tremendous responsibility on their inexperienced shoulders. Their performance would determine the future of the game. While they all chipped in with squirrel like performances, the bulk of the credit obviously went to Shantha.
In any match India played in the formative years, it was Shantha who contributed more than 50 per cent of the team's effort lending respectability to the Indian score. As if it was not enough, she chipped in with her dipping inswingers that invited raving write-ups from most sports journalists of leading dailies.
She has had her share of the problems with the officialdom. Her forthright and outspoken nature landed her in problems with the Women's Cricket Association of India (WCAI), which could have been overcome only with a player of her calibre.
In spite of her overwhelmingly consistent performances, she was axed as the captain and dropped from the team for demanding that the players should be adequately compensated for representing India.
As a direct result of the demand made in the 1984 series against Australia when she was still holding the reins, she was not even considered for selection in the 1985 series against New Zealand that toured India. And the players for whose cause she fought gave in without a whimper when she was dropped for reasons other than cricketing.
But for a player, who had held the Indian innings together for over a decade, she knew the art of staging comebacks. She heard the rumours circulating in the domestic circuit and quietly put up with it preferring to let her game do the talking.
In the Rani Jhansi Inter Zonal trophy in 1986, she let her batting give a befitting reply to the "doubting Thomases" and brought herself back into reckoning for a place in the national squad. Hers was one of the automatic choices for the 1986 England tour of the Indian tour. She represented India till the 1991 Australian tour of India.
Shantha's ability as a captain, batsman and bowler are too well known to elaborate upon. But her contribution to the game in encouraging talented players has never been publicised. During the late eighties and early nineties, many of the Karnataka players reached the zenith of their careers and went on to represent India. Players like Kalpana, Pramila Bhat, Mala Sundareshan, Smitha Harikrishna and myself found places in the Indian team during this period.