Santha, the torchbearer of Indian women's cricket

It was Santha Rangaswamy who laid the foundation for Indian women's cricket decades ago. The first captain of Indian women's cricket team, Santha Rangaswamy was a great batsman and fielder. With her talent, leadership, she showed the way for victorious Indian women's cricket team. She was the captain for 12 tests and 16 one-dayers. She was the first Indian woman cricketer to score a century. During her regime in 1976, Indian women's team beat West Indies and created a record. The dedication and hard work shown by her team had earned many victories and paved the way for future laurels.

Born in Chennai, Santha Rangaswamy settled down in Bengaluru. She was awarded lifetime achievement award by the BCCI. She was also a recipient of Arjuna award. It was another great achievement that she had been made a member of the Cricket Advisory Committee which selected Indian men's cricket team coach. Other members of the committee were Kapil Dev and Anshuman Gaikwad.

'Mithaliraj better than Dhoni'

Indian women's cricket team's first captain and allrounder Santha Rangaswamy shared many interesting aspects during her interview with Women Empowerment Telugu Association (WETA) Magazine. She said aiming for the victory and dedication, hard work matter more than victory and loss. Speaking about present cricketers, she said Mithali Raj is a better cricketer than Dhoni. If Dhoni is a hard hitter then Mithali is a technical batsman. Here are the excerpts:

Q. Tell us your experiences about 1976 West Indies series?

Ans: The match was played 43 years ago. I was the first women's captain of India and the first centurian among women Indian cricketers. Those moments are unforgettable. At that match we have decided that only our talent will pave the way for better future for Indian women's cricket. So we wanted to showcase our talent and our game has won us victory. That laid the foundation for women's cricket. Even in those days many people flocked to the ground to watch our matches.

Q. There was no victory for women's cricket team till 2002. Not many fans. Tell us reasons?

Ans: Women's cricket team has been playing as per its potential. It has drawn many matches. Many changes have occurred after BCCI took the reins of Women's cricket. The importance of Women's cricket has grown. In 2005, at South Africa, Indian Women's cricket team was the runner-up. Till then nobody came forward to give us publicity. Only after BCCI took over Women's cricket, there was recognition for us. Now victory doesn't matter, only talent matters. It will help Women's cricket to settle down.

Q. The present status of Women's cricket team ?

Ans: In those days, there were good batsmen and bowlers in Women's cricket team . The legacy is still continuing. Now, the fitness level has improved. This has paved the way for better fielding. Thanks to BCCI's better administration, Indian Women's cricket expanded a lot. Now we are getting talented cricketers. The future is bright. We can see girls in Hyderabad and Bengaluru cricket academies. Now their interest has gone up.

Q. Who is the best batsman in women's team?

Ans: Mithali Raj (Hyderabad) is the best batsman of Indian Women's cricket team. She is a technical batsman. She plays like Rahul and Gavaskar. Dhoni is a hard hitter. But Mithali Raj's cricket is better than Dhoni's. She has good cricketing skills. Harmanpreet can be compared with Dhoni. She is a good hitter. She plays well in T20s.

Q. What about your selection to CAC?

Ans: It is a great honor and responsibility. It is an honor for women cricketers. It is a trendsetter. There is no surprise that in another 10, 15 years Mithali Raj can become a selector for men's cricket team.

Q. Comment about discrimination among men and women cricket?

Ans: In India men's cricket is hugely popular. It is good revenue grosser. It is getting more money. IPL is a cash cow for BCCI. Even in professional tennis, men are earning more than women. I have convinced the BCCI to offer contracts to Women cricketers too. I have asked them to pay Rs. 20, 30, 40 lakhs. Men cricketers are earning crores. It is 1,000 times more than what women get. The situation will change in future. Then discrimination will reduce.

Q. You came from a traditional family. How did you join cricket?

Ans: The main reason is my mother. My sisters are toppers in studies. I was topper in sports. So my mother encouraged me a lot. It is in the hands of mothers to encourage their daughters to pursue sports.

Q. What is the future of Women's cricket in India?

Ans: It has been 13 years since BCCI took the control of women's cricket. Now there is better administration. Many good women cricketers are coming. Talent is multiplying. Competition has grown. Quality standards have improved. In world cricket, there is craze for Indian Women's cricket team. Pakistan, Sri Lanka, England and Australian women's teams are playing well. India is also playing well. The future is bright for Women's cricket.

Q. The hurdles to Women's cricket?

Ans: Though there is development in world, discrimination against women still continues. But there are some changes. Women are shining in politics. In India, Indira Gandhi, Sri Lanka's Bandara Naike and Vijayalakshmi Pandit in U.N. have proved their mettle. After women cricketers proved their talent, now they are getting more chances. Like all fields, Women's cricket is fast growing in India.

Q. Your message for women's cricketers?

Ans: More women should join cricket. Steps should be taken to kindle interest among girls at young age. I feel that America will soon get a good women's cricket team. Now many Indians and Pakistanis are playing in American cricket team. Locals should come. Sarvani Bhaskar from Tamil Nadu is playing for American team. Sindhu belongs to Karnataka. My colleague and former cricketer Rajeswari Antony has set up a coaching academy in Houston and has been training boys and girls in cricket.

My mother's encouragement

Though I was born in a traditional family, my mother Rajyalakshmi gave me full freedom. My sisters are toppers in studies. But I excelled in sports. So my mother encouraged me to pursue my favourite sport cricket. In those days, women were not allowed to play sports. But my mother encouraged me and thanks to her, I have become a better player and captain of Indian team.

Interview by: Dr. Krishna Puttaparthi, T.S. Venkatesh