To display courage at the hour of need is as good as winning half the battle even before the battle has commenced. True courage is not the brutal force of despised men and women; it is the firm resolve of virtue and reason. True fortitude is seen in great exploits of gutsy men and women under adverse conditions.
There is a strength of quiet endurance, as significant of courage, as the most daring feats of prowess. To this elite group, who never buckled under pressure belongs one of the top all-rounders of Indian women's cricket, Shashi Gupta.
On more occasions than not, Lopamudra, the seamer from West Bengal, was off the field as she had lot of fitness problems. Indian cricket was served by three inswing bowlers, Shashi, Sujatha Sridhar and myself, around the same point of time. Sandra Braganza was the only outswing bowler of repute during the eighties and after Sujatha quit the scene in 1986, the opening bowling attack was mainly in the hands of Sandra and Shashi till the 1993 World Cup.
Shashi Gupta was named in the squad for the 1982 World Cup. I was named the captain of the team after the coaching camp, which I did not attend. I first saw Shashi in the 1981 National Championship held at Nagpur. All the players got the intimation to assemble at Delhi prior to departure to New Zealand.
It was then that I was informed that Shashi Gupta has been replaced by Mangal Babbar of Gujurat by the President of Women's Cricket Association of India as Shashi had injured her foot. Mangal was included; reportedly at the behest of some powers that be, ahead of Sudha Shah who was named as the first stand bye. All this had transpired unknown to me, the captain, but Shashi always carried an impression that I was instrumental in her exclusion from the squad.
Shashi had to wait till 1984 to make her bow in international cricket when she played against the visiting Australian team. Her debut was without much fanfare as she made 33 runs in the first Test at Ahmedabad. But it was the Lucknow Test that showed her class as an all-rounder. When Indian batting had let the team down, Shashi and Sharmila added 78 runs for the last wicket, a record of sorts, with Shashi remaining unconquered with 48 runs. She also picked up four for 46 in the first innings to make it a memorable Test for her.
The first time I played Shashi Gupta was in the 1983-84 National Championship at Kota when Karnataka, the team I was leading, had to make a hasty retreat despite being in the final the previous year because of Shashi's superb batting for Punjab. Though Manimala Singhal also got runs, it was Shashi's innings that provided solidity to the Punjab batting and eventually won the match for them.