Pride Of Our Community – Diana Edulji

Recipient of the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri, Diana Edulji has been India’s greatest woman cricketer. Having represented The Railways, she went on to become the cynosure of the Indian National Cricket Team, which she captained, and worked hard towards securing an extremely popular and long, successful career. Diana adds the pride element to our ‘Parsipanu’! Parsi Times Sports Reporter Binaisha M. Surti catches up with Diana Edulji at the Parsee Gymkhana, Marine Drive.

photo copyPT: Take us through your formative years – was cricket always on the cards?
Diana: Cricket was never on the cards! In fact, it was always basketball and table tennis in school as well as in college. I stayed at the Railway Colony-Badhwar Park in Colaba, where every weekend we would play tennis ball cricket. It used to be ten boys and me as the only girl. That’s how I developed a liking for the game. I also played all the open Table Tennis tournaments in the gymkhanas, but the competition was too much. I realised that to make a mark somewhere, it would be best to play a new game and as I enjoyed the sport, I decided to switch to cricket in 1971.

PT: How was the experience of attending a cricket camp hosted by Lala Amarnath in 1976?
Diana: In 1976, we were training in Lucknow, when he was appointed as the coach of the Indian team and we were to play against the West Indies. Then, we had NIS coaches who concentrated on the technical part and not skill. When Lalaji, arrived he immediately asked everyone to stop doing all those things as he did not want long distance runners. In Lucknow, the climate was very hot and humid and we would drink water between net sessions. He wanted all of us to build stamina and see if the girls could bowl a full session without water, and we did it! Lalaji was a great help to us and we went on to win the first ever Test match against West Indies in Patna.

PT: How did it feel being a part of the Indian Women’s Cricket Team that won its first ever Test Match against West Indies?
Diana: It was a wonderful feeling because I was at the crease, playing in Patna. We had to score hardly a few runs to win in the second innings and were already planning for the evening party. Suddenly, we were reduced to 25/5, the top order had collapsed and then panic set in. We had a big crowd in the stadium. My partner and I slowly built a partnership and I hit the winning runs.

PT: What are your views on the Indian Women’s Cricket Team today?
Diana: We need a new young captain with new ideas who can keep everyone together as a team. Mithali is a great player and nobody can match her skills. She is leading from the front with her perform-ances, but other areas are stagnating – such as field placements, strategy, the bowling changes and the batting order. The players should feel that they have a role to play, they need to feel wanted.

PT: Do you find similarities between yourself as captain then and today’s skipper Mithali Raj?
Diana: No way at all. We always fought for what was right, no matter what the outcome was. In 1978, we were playing the first World Cup. We were asked to pay for everything first and were told that it would be given back to us later. We went to Patna and knew that this was the only chance we had to get our money back as this was the last match. The team decided that we would not go onto the field unless we were paid our dues. There was a hue and cry. We had a long meeting with the government one day before the match and they requested we start the match and the money would be given to us. We agreed and went onto play the game, the next day. At the dot of the first break we were given our money. That is how things were then, today they are very much different.

PT: How was your debut game in the international circuit?
Diana: It was a lovely debut game in Pune in 1975 against Australia. I was 48 not out while batting. 6/42 were my figures as a bowler. I got the first catch, the first wicket in that game, scored runs and picked up many wickets too. Those days there was only commentary on radio. The commentator was so excited while talking about the game that my mother back home started getting palpitations after hearing him!

PT: Your thoughts on bowling to the legendary Clive Lloyd at the CCI?
Diana: This was in 1974 and the rest of the team had gone away to play in Rajkot. Clive Lloyd, Andy Roberts and Alvin Kallicharran were present. When Andy Roberts was running, the ground was literary shaking and that time I realized what kind of a difference is there between men and women’s cricket. When Clive Lloyd was batting I asked him why he was playing so easy. He asked me do you really want to see my game and I said yes. The next ball I bowled was out of the stadium! He said that he didn’t want to do this and discourage me but I told him he wasn’t discouraging me and at least now I knew where I stood! We remain good friends till date and whenever we meet, he always praises me and still remembers me!

PT: What message would you like to share with young Parsee girls who wish to take up cricket?
Diana: Come out play for the love of the game and play to win! You have to take it upon yourselves to get to that international level. All the best to the women – we are always here to support you!

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