I would say it is small step for me but a giant leap for women’s cricket : Since the advent and through the 20th century, the game of cricket has been known as the ‘gentlemen’s game’ and has been, true to the claim, dominated by the men.
However Indian women took to the game of cricket in the early 70s with the formation of Women’s Cricket Association of India under the Societies Registration Act.
The WCAI received the recognition and membership of International Women’s Cricket Council in 1973 and government recognition in the year 1978.
The first Women’s Cricket Test match played at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bemgaluru between 31st October and 2nd November 1976 (three-day affair) against the touring West Indian Women’s outfit, saw the entire team lead by Shanta Rangaswamy make their debut.
Rangaswamy featured in 16 Test matches in a career spanning 15 years. The reason for having played so few Test matches in a long period is due to the fact that there was no international assignment between 1977 and 1984 and later between 1986 and 1991.
If that was not the case, Rangaswamy would have ended up playing a lot more than 12 Tests and 19 ODIs.
The Chennai born all-rounder captained the team in 12 out of the 16 Test matches that she played for India. She had accumulated 750 runs in 26 innings at an average of 32.60 with 108 runs as her individual best. She also has 1 century and 6 half-centuries to her credit.
The right-arm medium pacer had picked up 21 wickets in 25 innings at a strike rate of 74.0 and an economy of 2.56 with a single ‘4-wicket’ haul. Her best bowling performance has been 4/42 in an innings and 6/114 in a match (against England).
Shanta became the first Indian women cricketer to score a century which she achieved in 1986 playing against New Zealand. She was also the first Indian women cricket to score a ‘six’ in a Test match.
In the shorter version of the game, Ramgaswamy appeared in 19 matches and notched up a total of 287 runs at an average of 15.10 with 50 runs as her best individual score.
She also claimed 12 wickets with the best bowling performance of 3/25.
Shanta Rangaswamy has been a pioneer of Indian Women’s cricket and many youngsters of the current crop do look up to her for advice and guidance.
Rangaswamy also had a stint as commentator, post her playing days. She was awarded the prestigious Arjuna Award in 1976 and became the first woman cricketer to have the honours.
Considering the enormous contribution made by her, BCCI had decided to confer on her the CK Nayudu Life Time Achievement Award. The 63-year old becomes the first ever Indian woman cricketer to be bestowed with the coveted award.
Reacting to the BCCI’s decision, Rangaswamy speaking to PTI said, “It’s a good feeling that women cricketers are finally getting their due. Those days were tough but we were still able to lay a solid foundation for the future. Ever since the BCCI took women cricket under its fold, things have significantly improved but there is still a lot that needs to be done.”
She also added, “At this stage of my life, the award is not much relevant for me. I would say it is small step for me but a giant leap for women’s cricket”, bringing back the memories of Neil Armstrong, the first even human being to set is foot on the moon, and his iconic quote.
The award will be presented at the BCCI’s Annual Award Function on the International Women’s Day, 8th March 2017, in a glittering gathering in Bengaluru.