Facing the first ball ever of an International match on Indian soil, which would be an epoch making event in the annals of Indian sports, would have made any seasoned player nervous, leave alone a 16-year-old, with barely two years of cricket experience. But not so with diminutive Fowzieh Khaleeli, the ace opening batsman and wicket-keeper of India.
Fowzi, as she was to her teammates, strode out to open the South Zone batting after we were put into bat by the visiting Australian team that toured India in 1975. With over 10,000 spectators watching the game, the first ever of its kind, it was no easy task for any player; and Fowzi had this knack of making things look easy.
Fowzi went on to enthuse the crowd with a sweet innings before she was run out; one of the three run outs in the South Zone innings. With the three key batsmen viz., Sudha Shah, Fowzi and myself being run out, we lost the match by a margin of eight wickets.
The one most memorable aspect of Fowzi's batting, was her style. Any one watching her batting went away carrying the impression of having witnessed one of the most stylish batsmen to have represented India. She was very strong off her front foot and scored most of her runs in the "V" and with her square cuts.
Fowzi knew her limitations in stroke play and therefore played well within herself. India's very first Test at Pune against the Australian team in 1975 saw Fowzi open the innings and score a defiant 34 when the wickets fell at the other end. She returned as the star of the day till Diana Edulji's hurricane innings of 48 not out, relegated Fowzi's contribution to the background.
Fowzi had the misfortune of having two of her teeth knocked off while keeping wickets for India in a warm up match against one of the state sides in New Zealand in late 1976.
After I had bowled, the ball brushed the batsman's pads thereby changing the route of the ball. As the batsman moved towards the leg, Fowzi, not aware of the change in the trajectory, lost sight of the ball and took the impact on her mouth.
The next thing I saw was blood gushing out and two of her teeth were dislodged. She was rushed to the hospital where the teeth, picked up from the ground, were sewn back. I had achieved two things with one ball. I knocked off her teeth and I also kept wickets for India in that match, after her injury, with a fair degree of success!