Women deserve their own IPL, says Shubhangi


Opposite the tennis court at the famed Deccan Gymkhana Club in Pune is a shop that sells things exclusively cricket. At the cash counter you will find a middle-aged woman with cropped, salt-and-pepper hair.

Low-profile

She will help you choose the right bat or glove. Sometimes, her suggestions are met with arched eyebrows. Shubhangi Kulkrani, however, does not let on that she is well qualified to advise. She does not let on that she is a former India captain who played 19 Tests and 27 ODIs.

Most of the visitors to her shop may not know that she bowled the Indian women’s team to its first-ever Test victory, or that she was a successful administrator who played a key role in the BCCI taking women’s cricket under its wing.

Not that she minds!

She is happy just to spend time at Sunny’s Sports Boutique, which she established some four decades ago in partnership with former Baroda cricketer Jairaj Mehta and Sunil Gavaskar.

Inside the shop, you will find posters of the batting legend. “Sunil’s parents lived in Pune and he used to have training sessions with the widely respected coach Kamal Bhandarkar,” Shubhangi tells The Hindu. “He visits the shop whenever he is in Pune.”

Gavaskar was the biggest icon of Indian cricket when Shubhangi started playing the game.

How it all started

“When I was still at school, my mother came to know of a camp conducted by the Maharashtra Cricket Association and she took me there,” she recalls. “Then I also attended a camp by Lala Amarnath in Lucknow, in 1975-76.”

After playing an invitation tournament at Nainital, she played in her first National tournament at Kolkata in 1974-75. A good show for the Combined Universities team against the touring New Zealand paved the way for her Test team entry.

Against the West Indies in 1976, she made a stunning debut in India’s first official Test, at Bengaluru. After a five for 48 in the first innings with her leg-spin, she took two more wickets in the second. In the fourth Test of the six-match series, she took seven wickets to help India post its first Test win.

Able administrator

After hanging up her boots, she became an administrator. It was while she was the secretary of the Women’ Cricket Association of India, in 2006, that the BCCI took over.

That was one big step forward for women’s cricket. “Sharad Pawar had shown interest even before he took over as BCCI president,” says Shubhangi. “Our women cricketers have benefited immensely because of that. Now they deserve their own IPL.”



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