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The woman who laid the foundation of Women in Blue : Shanta Rangaswamy

Today, everyone knows about women's cricket. People know that contribution of Mithali Raj is equivalent to the contribution of Sachin Tendulkar, the contribution of Virat as a batter is equivalent to Smriti's contribution to Women in Blue. Women have made their presence felt in the cricketing world today, with their amazing on-field performances. But the recognition of women cricketers is not an overnight thing. It happened because some young girls were ready to go against orthodox thinking to set an example for future generations. Out of the few names which come to our mind, Shanta Rangaswamy is the first and the pivotal one.

If there is one person to be credited for laying the foundation of women's cricket in India, it is Shanta Rangaswamy. She debuted for India, about 4 and half decades ago, when half of the girls in India were not even allowed to study, forget about pursuing their dreams. She played her first international game when there were no organizations for women's cricket in the country. But despite all the difficulties, she followed her dream and played the game she loved. In the process, she gave many "firsts" to Indian cricket and left a legacy to follow for younger women in the country.

Born in 1954, Shanta was the third of 7 children. She initially started playing cricket with her cousins. Her love for the game increased with every single day, and she never looked back since then. Even today, she contributes her bit to the game being in the think tank. She stepped out for her training and coaching when few of the women were not allowed to step out of their houses. But she was made to break the shackles of orthodoxness. And she displayed immense courage while doing so. Even after losing her mother at the mere age of 12, she continued.

She made her debut for Women in Blue in 1976. But not having a proper body to govern the women's cricket, she did not get many chances to play. However, her efforts didn't go unnoticed. She continued to play the game which she loved and was honoured while doing so. In the same year, she was conferred with Arjuna Award and became the first Indian woman to be a recipient of the prestigious award.

In the year to follow, she became the first woman from India to hit a six in an international match. In the same match, she scored a century against New Zealand in a test, becoming the first Indian woman to score a century at the international level. She also became the first test captain to win a test match for Women in Blue. She played a vital role to promote women's cricket in India along with the likes of Diana Edluji, Sandhya Agrawal and a few others.

For the 12 years she played, she could only play 16 test matches, and 19 ODI matches. The less number of matches is due to very few matches organized for women's cricket. But in those matches, she scored 1037 runs and scalped 33 wickets overall. The small number of matches she played left a long-lasting impact on women's cricket in India, and allowed many women to look up to the sport. This was exactly what she wanted to happen.

After she retired from playing at the international level, she continued to work for the betterment of women's games in India. When the Indian government didn't permit the women's team to play the world cup in Australia in 1988, Shanta met the then Hon. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and got permission from him to participate in the event. Even though it was too late to get a nod, Shanta's dedication to the game was visible. Almost 3 decades post her retirement from the game, the 67 age-year-old youngster still works for the betterment of women's games.

Even after her retirement, she became the recipient of many of the "firsts" for women's cricket. She strived hard for the betterment of the game, and the game rewarded her equally. In 2017 she was awarded the 'CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award '. She became the first women cricketer to receive the prestigious award. Furthermore, she became the first woman to be a part of the BCCI Apex Council and happens to be the only woman to be in the apex body of the council. And using her post in the right way, she has always come up with the right ideas for women's cricket. The idea of the very first pink ball test for Women in Blue in 2021 came from her sharp mind.

Today, Women in Blue are supported by a billion people and they always live up to the expectations of their supporters. But the journey of Women in Blue has been a long one. Pioneering the journey, Shanta Rangaswamy brought a revolution. She worked and promoted the game in the years when cricket was not even a commercially rich game. All she did was purely for her love of the game. Just like Savitribai Phule brought a revolution for women in the field of education, Shanta Rangaswamy brought a revolution in the field of cricket for women. One day, when women's cricket would be at the peak of its glory in India, one would remember this legend for her contribution immensely. It's time to convey her belated birthday wishes, we pray this gem goes on to live forever and continues to inspire women across the globe.

Authored By:- Ashwin Jangam ( Cricket Analyst, Host and Entertainer)


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