There are very few players who distinguish themselves from the rest of the creed by being focussed on the most important thing. While some allow themselves to become a bundle of nerves, there are a few who excel in the art of unwinding which leaves them fresh and in the right frame of mind to take on the opponents' bowling.
Talents, to strike the eye of posterity, should be concentrated. Rays, powerless while they are scattered, burn in a point. This, simply translated to cricketing idiom, means the art of intense focussing on the task on hand. This is easier said than done. Very few cricketers can lay claim for having mastered this art. But one such cricketer who mastered this art, much to the envy of many others, was Rajini Venugopal.
Rajini was the first teenage prodigy to descend on the Indian women's cricket horizon. She started her cricket at a tender age and I have seen her father spend hours' everyday giving Rajini the batting practice. All that effort did not go to waste as she emerged as the most fluent driver of the ball in the country. With all her abundant talent, Rajini's style of batting was one of the simplest. But then simplicity, of all the things, is the hardest thing to be copied.
Rajini was knocking on the doors of international cricket right from 1984 but at that point of time her age was reckoned against her. But in the 1985 series against the touring New Zealand team, she was brought in to play in a One-day match. She was representing Andhra Pradesh and South Zone in 1986.
In 1986 both Rajini and I played along side each other representing South Zone in the Rani Jhansi Inter Zonal championship. This was the first year when Indian Railways played the Inter Zonal tournament under the Institutional zone. While Rajini had to establish herself to cement her place for the forthcoming tour of England, I was set for a come back after being dumped during the 1985 New Zealand tour of India.
The best part of the brief period Rajini and I played with each other in the domestic season was this tournament. Against the formidable Institutional zone comprising most Indian players, both of us were associated in a big partnership with Rajini getting 52 and I remaining unbeaten on 79. It was a pleasure batting with her, as watching her bat from the non-striker's end would make my pulse beat faster. Such was her class and choice of stroke.
She was an automatic choice when the Indian team to tour England was announced shortly after the above tournament. For a person gifted with such talent, Rajini was more often than not at the receiving end. She made her debut against England in the second Test played at Blackpool where she got 55 runs but was dropped for the Third Test. She was not given adequate chances in the One-dayers where her style of play was best suited.