'Sharmila heads my list of all time spinners'

Published: Monday, September 11, 2000, 18:23 [IST]
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Sharmila was the favourite amongst the Kiwis when they toured India in 1976 and when we toured that country in 1976-77. The entire Indian team and most of the New Zealand players had learnt a Bengali song from her and this was invariably one item of any programme we had to render in official functions.

Sharmila was moulded in the West Bengal team like a school kid is by the class teacher and monitor. When Sharmila initially came into the Indian team, she was at a loss as she was just 14 years old and needed constant prodding. But she learnt the survival act quickly enough to carve out a permanent place in the team despite being the second left arm spinner.

Sharmila was adept at buying her wickets with her flight variation. Most of the opposition's main batsmen were done in by her. Greater the calibre of the batsman, the higher was the likelihood of Sharmila capturing the wicket.

From 1975 to 1984, Indian team invariably depended on her to get vital breakthroughs. When all seemed lost, she would produce a superb spell that enabled India to bounce back into the game. She was always amongst the wickets and appeared to run a neck-to-neck race with the other bowlers.

In 1984, she proved she was no pushover with the bat. In the 1984 Lucknow Test against the Australians when India were in dire straits, she added 78 runs for the last wicket with Shashi Gupta (48 not out) before she finally fell for 26.

She hated getting hit and would try to wriggle out of the bowling attack on some pretext if she was being hit for runs. This weakness coupled with lack of big time ambition made the difference between Sharmila and Diana appear like the difference between a boy and a man (girl and woman in this case)!!

Sometime after that, she just disappeared from the scene. My days as captain had also ended. As long as she represented West Bengal, she continued to be in the thick of action. But from 1985-86 season she started representing the newly formed Indian Railways team that started the downward slide for her.

As every team lost players to Railways and got depleted, she hardly got the opportunities in the strong Railways team. She was not named in the Indian team that toured England, a sad end to an illustrious career.

However great a talent, bestowed on any individual, cannot fetch by itself the deserved desserts; it is the conjunction of talent and good fortune that does the trick. Sharmila, in many ways, is the unsung heroine of Indian Women's cricket. Her cricketing career was deprived of the fame she richly deserved.

This article on her in the Golden Oldies section of Indian women's cricket is Thatscricket.com's way of saluting her for the yeoman's service rendered to the game of women's cricket.

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