Miss Tiger Ujwala Nikam, first amongst equals

Published: Monday, September 18, 2000, 18:23 [IST]
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Bangalore: There is a realm where the rainbow never fades, where the stars are spread out like the islands that slumber on the ocean, and where the beings that pass before us like shadows, will stay in our presence forever. An immortal person is assured of eternal life. To this very special group belongs the first captain of the Indian women's cricket Test team, Ujwala Nikam.

It was a time when cricket was considered exclusively a male's domain and women's cricket in India was unheard of. When the Indian women stormed the male citadel by taking to cricket, there was a lot of skepticism and there was a question mark over the future of the game. The Australian women toured India in 1975 and any one chosen to lead India was bound to be the cynosure of the nation as she would be the first Indian captain ever.

That honour belonged to Ujwala. As the game was in its infancy in India, the decision was taken to name the local players as the captain. The first Test against Australia was played at Pune and Ujwala, by virtue of being in the Team on merit and being the Maharashtra captain, was given the honour of leading India.

Ujwala was the first to hit the magazine covers and almost all of them referred to her as "Miss Tiger". Needless to mention that this was an attempt to draw a parallel to Tiger Pataudi, who was still very popular, even though he had by then lost his captaincy to Wadekar. There were quite a few players vying for the captaincy of the Indian team but it was Ujwala who turned out to be "The first amongst equals".

Ujwala was a fluent stroke maker and a brilliant fielder. I have been a witness to many of her scorching drives from the non-striker's end but fortunately I was on the same side as her. There have been very few natural stroke makers and when they bat, it appears as though the player was born to bat. There have been only a select few who have had this type of ability like Ujwala. The only two batsmen who could come anywhere near her were Anjali Pendharkar (Nee Gurjar) and later on Rajini Venugopal. I am told that current teenage sensation in the Indian team, Mithali Raj, is another player that fits into this club.

Ujwala did not get big scores in the beginning but was persisted with considering her potential. In the Pune Test against New Zealand in 1976, where I got my first century, she was associated in a 54-run partnership for the 6th wicket before she fell for 29. But the best knock I have seen from the blade of her bat was the one she played in the Final Test against New Zealand at Bangalore in 1976.

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