The pioneer of women's cricket in Karnataka reminisces
When we talk of women's cricket, the name that comes easily to mind is Shantha Rangaswamy, a pioneer of the game from Karnataka. This Jayanagar lady began playing the game when cricket was a taboo for girls. She became a dashing right-hand batsman and a medium pacer, and gave Indian women's cricket a place under the sun. After retirement from the game, Shantha, an officer with Canara Bank, became a commentator on Radio and TV. She is a legend, who inspired legions of young women to take up the game in the country.
Excerpts of an interview:
Wasn't it tough for women players back then?
Initially, we had many curious onlookers. The fabric of Indian society then did not encourage women to take up the game. But there were many women who had a passion for it but no avenues to display their talent.
It was in the second National Championships in November 1973 that Karnataka fielded a team under my captaincy. But it was when we started our international matches that people accepted that women were playing out of love and not as a fad.
Has the women's game become better over the years?
The game got better over the next few decades. A lot of tournaments at the domestic level and regular international exposure catapulted the game and the players to the top of the league. The icing on the cake was the 2005 World Cup, when our team did extraordinarily well under the leadership of Mithali Raj and secured the runner's up spot.
Why doesn't women's cricket have as many fans as the men's game?
Any comparison to men's cricket is unfair. Men's cricket in India has been on for almost a century. We can't compare apples with oranges. Opportunities for men are manifold.
Do you envisage a format like IPL for women?
Not for now. First, women's cricket should be broad based. Every school and college should have a team. Unless the game is played at every district, the base won't widen. A concept like IPL can work after making the game broad based.
Any advice to aspiring women cricketers?
Play for the love of the game; the rest will fall in place.
Keywords: women's cricket