On his first day as BCCI president N Srinivasan was congratulated by former India captain Diana Edulji who met the veteran administrator. The man who ruled Indian cricket had smiled a tight polite smile but Edulji was taken aback by the whiplash statement that followed.
The former India women’s team captain still recalls the moment. “He said, ‘If I had my way I won’t allow your women’s team to play cricket only.”
Edulji asked Srinivasan with sheer surprise, “Why sir? Why would you say that? Give us a chance at least to prove ourselves, we will do well,” Edulji replied. Srinivasan was unmoved by that, and he told Edulji, “I’m not interested, we have no choice but to run it, so we are running it for sake of running it.”
Those words are still fresh in her mind and that was the day Edulji knew that her fight to get women’s right will never end. On Monday, Edulji was appointed to the four member committee by Supreme Court which will run the affairs of the BCCI. The lady, whom the men’s world had casually snubbed, is going to head the cricketing body.
People might wonder about her ability to run the board for the record, she has been a Senior Sports officer at the Western Railways where she handled 32 sports. Her job was to look after recruitment each year and at the same time she was the in charge of more than 500 sportpersons recurited by Western Railway.
At Western Railway, cricket remained her favourite beat and as Rohit Sharma school coach Dinesh Lad puts it, she was a results oriented lady. Western Railway had never won the Gold Cup in 60 years. Gold Cup is given to the section whose team not only does well in cricket but also excels in other sports.
“Western Railways had entered the inter-railways final and she flew down to Patiala the morning of the game. She told us in her inimitable Parsi style, ‘tum maro ya jiyo par mujhe yeh game jeet ke chahiye. She wanted to win this Gold Cup badly. We won the Gold Cup not only that year but also back to back the next two years,” Lad says.
She can be very stubborn at times he says, and Lad recalls how she once made Shreyas Khanolkar play an inter-railway game one day after his marriage. And how one player invited her wrath for scheduling his ‘Gauna’ (its a north Indian custom and ceremony associated with the marriage) coinciding with match day.
“She always took pride in the fact that her recruitment was never a bogus one. She took her recruitment very seriously. However, her first love remained towards cricket. So if we were travelling by train to play any game, everything would be in place way before,” Lad explains.
All the big names in cricket were calling Edulji today, even those, who never took her seriously just few days ago. Despite leading women’s teams from 1971 to 1991, Edulji recalls days when she had to beg for everything.
“I was never taken seriously. Even for the women’s team merger it took us time to convince BCCI and it was very difficult. It was only because of Mr Pawar (Sharad) that we got in and also because ICC told all the boards to bring women’s cricket under their wing,” she recalls, as the phone kept ringing on Monday.
The battery was draining out, and she took some time to get back her powerbank. She recollected days when she was told she was just an old Parsee lady. “Despite the merger, the tournaments were being run so bad, holding them for sake of holding it. So for every step we had to fight. Be it our pension or decent tournaments. They made me wait for everything.”
She served as a Cricket Improvement Committee (CIC) member and after few years she was removed. “I got one nasty letter from MCA then but there were certain people in MCA who helped. Had this not come, I would have been somehow associated with MCA. I am happy to be among the four members picked by SC, I am the only player among men or women, and that’s the indication that I got justice, even though it came late,” she points out.
As the conversation got over, there were messages from past office-bearers, who had never taken Edulji seriously. And she seemed to have started chugging in towards the new challenge— though with a few butterflies — when two Indian captains including current India coach Anil Kumble called up.