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Shantha -The Prima Donna of women's cricket

Published: Monday, August 21, 2000, 18:23 [IST]
 
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The golden period of Karnataka cricket was between 1987 to 1993 when Karnataka was the best in the domestic circuit, with the exception of Indian Railways. The state emerged as the runners-up in the National Championship for six consecutive years for which Shantha's contribution as a player and as the guiding light cannot be diminished.

Shantha continued to represent Karnataka till 1994 when she quit only to be offered the cricket manager's post of the Indian team, which she did for only one series for some inexplicable reason.

When skeptics thought of women's cricket as a fad and a temporary phase, it was Shantha and her team that dispelled this notion and proved that women's cricket had arrived. When it was felt women can't hit the ball hard, Shantha silenced the critics with a sixer in the Bangalore Test in 1976 against West Indies. She also led India to their maiden Test win against West Indies in the Patna Test of 1976.

Her accomplishments are many with the Arjuna Award (1976) heading the list. The Karnataka state government has also warded her with the Dasara Award (1977), Ekalavya Award for (1992), and the prestigious Kannada Rajotsava Award in 1997. She has also been the first Indian to score a century in Tests and hit a sixer.

Shantha and Diana Edulji were fierce competitors and made good contributions for the game. While her batting ability was a widely known fact, her ability to swing the ball prodigiously was not known to many cricket lovers.

Louise Brown, the West Indies cricket captain to tour India in 1976, has reportedly spoken about Shantha's ability as a bowler as being of more utility to the Indian team than her batting. This when she was getting runs aplenty against them only underlines her bowling ability.

I have played under her, with her and led her during my tenure with the Karnataka state team. Irrespective of the level of the game, she was concentration personified from the time the first ball was bowled till the conclusion of the match.

It was practically impossible to draw her away from the game even when she was waiting for her turn to bat. She appeared more at ease with her bowling than with her batting where she opted to concentrate more.

There have been many players since her time but her name always props up first in any conversation about women's cricket. She still remains the "numero uno" of women's cricket and has written many articles for newspapers.

Shantha Rangaswamy is a columnist for "Thatscricket.com" and we take this opportunity to salute the Prima Donna of women's cricket in this series of articles featuring the "Golden Oldies" of Indian women's cricket.

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