Cricketfundas.com interviewed Gargi Banerjee, former Indian women’s opening batswoman to learn some interesting things about women’s cricket in the 80s. B.V.Swagath caught up with Gargi Banerjee to bring out this interview.
Gargi Banerjee, you made your Test Match Debut against Australia at Feroze Shah Kotla and you were right there facing the 1st ball of the match! So what was going on in your mind during that innings? We are going back to January 21st 1984…
I wasn’t nervous to be honest and was mentally prepared to face the biggest day in my life. When the bowler was running in all I had in my mind was to time the ball and strike it with the sweetest part of my bat. And the runs did flow, in particular I enjoyed the square cuts and the cover drives I hit during that day. In the second innings I hit 63 and got the Best Batswoman award.
Interestingly there were six debutants from the Indian women. Any reasons for that many number of new faces in the team?
The team was hit by injuries to several players and the selectors had to b ring in six debutants including me, Neelima Joglekar and others.
You were playing with the likes of Shanta Rangaswamy, Diana Eduljee, Shubangi Kulkarni… all the three very experienced. So how were the big three with the junior players like you during that debut match?
Well there were no superiority or inferiority complex in our side; I never felt that I was playing with those big players. I was very confident and always wanted to face the best situation in my life. I don’t remember getting any special advice from the seniors but definitely they had been very encouraging.
Anyway how did you get into Cricket?
I used to play Cricket with my brother and slowly started to enjoy the game. One day I happened to see in the newspaper about a Cricket camp for women in Calcutta. I attended that camp, I think about 50 girls turned up then. The camp was for the selection of the Bengal’s Women team, and surprisingly my name was there in the squad. I played two or three local matches and I could not score at all. My father advised me to learn cricket first and play and do not allow to give a chance to others to laugh at you. So I trained for three years. My coach was Mr Kalyan Biswas and former test cricketer Late Shri Kartik Bose. Apart from them I had taken tips from lots of former Indian test players like Salim Durani, Rajinder Amarnath, Bishen Singh Bedi and others. My father wanted me to play for India but very sad that by the time I made it to the Indian team, I lost my father. But my mother and brother were very happy to see me playing for the country. They had encouraged me throughout my career.
And how did you make it to the Indian team?
I was performing well for Bengal in the domestic tournament and that got me to play for India against England. In all the tests against England I performed and infact was awarded the Best Bat, Best all rounder, Woman of the Match. Unfortunately for me the series wasn’t recognized official much to my disappointment.
And Gargi, a one-day international debut at Eden Gardens, Calcutta and that too in a World Cup. You were just a tender 15 year old; tell us how you felt during that time.
I was very new at that time in the international arena, not very mature too. But the experience what I had with the team was fantastic, I really enjoyed the atmosphere at that time in Eden Gardens although I used to do lots of practice in Eden Gardens, it was a wonderful feeling.
Any reasons why you couldn’t go beyond 26 ODIs and 14 tests matches in your career?
Well first of all in between 1987 to1990 there was not a single international match played by Indian women cricket team and then we went to Australia and there I was badly injured. So I missed couple of matches… then the new selectors thought I wasn’t good enough to play for the country. Its still a shock to me that I could never play for India from then.
We all are curious to know why India didn’t play a single international game during that period. Isn’t that staggering?
All I know during the1988 World Cup, the squad was selected and we were attending the preparatory camp and everything was done, but one day the shocking news came that we are not going to play the world cup match, why? No funds… how much true it was, I still don’t know.
Any good memories about your international career?
Yes one of the test matches, there was an English bowler Sarah Potter, who was dismissing our batswomen with sharp inswingers, but I did not get out to her and was the one who survived against that bowler. After I got out, I was just making a diagram why these girls were unable to play this bowler. And I have told the captain these are the reasons? Then end of the first innings, Shanta Rangaswamy said to me “Yeh Hath mujhe de do”. Well another memorable moment was at Blackpool, England. In the first innings, I scored 63 and second innings I scored 76 and those innings I was sure to get my first hundred but my luck did not give support then.
Sushmita Chowdhury from Delhi wants to know that “Seeing the current plight of Women’s Cricket in India, what would your advise be for a young girl who wants to take up Cricket as her career?”
Sushmita, nowadays the training facilities have grown up for women in different cities. Some colleges have their own teams and once the girls perform well in the leagues and other domestic tournaments, they would get a chance to play for India. And with organizations like Railways, Indian Airlines and others giving the girls job security, I think its really upto the girls to work hard and keep performing and grab the opportunities. But to make a career in women’s cricket, young girls should remember that they should match world class standards.
Gargi, any message to Cricketfundas.com ?
Yeah…I appreciate Cricketfundas.com’s endeavor in bringing out a special Women N Cricket section. It’s a privilege for me to have a column with Cricketfundas.com. All the best for the CF Unit.