From being the understudy for four long years (and not getting to play a single match for India) to becoming the captain of India is no mean achievement. The one who made this giant progress by sheer merit is none other than Nilima Barve, now Nilima Joglekar.
In April 1973, the first National women's cricket championship was held at Pune. There were only two and half teams participating in the event - Bombay, Maharashtra and half of Uttar Pradesh team. The Uttar Pradesh team did not have enough players to form a full team. So the deficit was filled up by local players, which included the 12-year old Nilima Barve of Pune.
The second National championship, which was held in November at Varanasi in the same year, was altogether a different affair with 14 teams participating in it.
Blooded and initiated into the game at the tender age of 12, Nilima who was inducted into a different team to fill up the number, went about the hard task of establishing herself and eventually reached the ultimate goal of any player - leading India in an international outing.
It goes to the credit of Nilima that within the span of less than four years, she went on to become the reserve wicket-keeper of India, an understudy to Fowzieh Khaleeli. However, Nilima had to wait a long time to make her debut for India. She came into the Indian team in late 1976 and played her first match in 1981 during the England team's tour of India. With Khaleeli not among runs in 1981, Nilima was inducted and there was no looking back after that. Nilima held her place after that, even when it was decided to bring back Khaleeli as the wicket-keeper. So good was her performance with the willow.
She played her best innings I have witnessed, in the last Test against England at Jaipur. India was reeling at 63 for 6 when she joined me in the second innings. We had to fight with our backs to the wall as any further loss of wicket would have sealed India's fate in the Test. It was Nilima who set the tempo going. She was cool-headed and went about her task in a methodical way that infused confidence in me. While I was still on single digit, she raced to the twenties. I caught up with her in the forties but then raced ahead with a flurry of boundaries to reach 79 not out. We added 132 runs in even time for the unbroken 7th wicket partnership and I declared when she reached the half-century milestone (51*).