ICC Hall of Famers Edulji, Aravinda and Sehwag brought about a paradigm shift in cricket

Diana Edulji, along with Shanta Rangaswamy, put in a pioneering effort for women in this sport, not just in India, but globally

By Ayaz Memon

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Diana Edulji, Aravinda De Silva and Virender Sehwag. — X
Diana Edulji, Aravinda De Silva and Virender Sehwag. — X

Published: Wed 15 Nov 2023, 1:05 AM

The ICC inducting Diana Edulji, Aravinda De Silva and Virender Sehwag into its Hall of Fame is mot juste. All three have not just been outstanding players, but brought about a paradigm shift in the sport.

Edulji, along with Shanta Rangaswamy, put in a pioneering effort for women in this sport, not just in India, but globally.

Women’s cricket has developed rapidly over the past two decades, but when you go back 30 years further, it was beleaguered and impoverished. There was no recognition for for players and certainly no money.

Women cricketers, especially in the sub-continent, were seen more out of curiosity and for time pass than any genuine appreciation of their skills and their ambition.

This meant precious little financial support for the game, at the top, middle or grassroots levels. It was a hand to mouth existence, against extraordinarily odds for those like Edulji who played the game and wanted to make a career of it.

I can remember the time when the Indian players would travel by third class in trains because there was no money to make it any better.

Such hardship didn’t deter the likes of Edulji who not only excelled as a left-arm spinner and captain, but never gave up the struggle to make the lot of Indian women cricketers better. Her untiring efforts to get Indian women’s cricket absorbed in the BCCI finally found fruit in 2006/7 when the apex body, under president Sharad Pawar agreed.

Feisty and driven by a strong of conviction, personal and how the sport should be played, she was part of the Committee of Administrators appointed by the panel appointed by Supreme Court’s Justice Lodha Panel to set right cricket administration in India. A trailblazer in the truest sense of the word.

I saw Aravinda de Silva make his Test debut, against India at Colombo in 1985. Short-statured, somewhat podgy, he was an overtly aggressive player, with predilection for outrageously high-risk strokeplay that earned him the sobriquet of` Mad Max’.

It took him some while to settle down into international cricket, but once he did, he evolved into a majestic batsman, a maestro. His batting rested on immaculate technique, but this never quelled his innate attacking instincts. If anything, the combo made him among the most dangerous and exciting batsmen in the world.

He swiftly grew into becoming Sri Lanka’s best batman in his generation – carrying forward the legacy of the likes of Anura Tennekoon and Roy Dias, and becoming the forerunner of exceptional players like Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.

The last two mentioned are hailed as the epitome of Sri Lankan batting excellence, but Aravinda, if not a step ahead of them, wasn’t a step behind either.

He was at his sublime best in the 1996 World Cup, playing two match-winning knocks, a breathtaking half century at the Eden Gardens against India which pulled his team out of deep crisis, followed by a scintillating century against Australia in the final at Lahore which spelt out his greatness for posterity. Genial and happy-go-lucky, his passion for swanky cars matched his zest for fours and sixes when in the middle.

Sehwag began his international career with a bang, and continued to go bang, bang, bang until he retired!

A century on Test debut was just the curtain-raiser to the dazzling talent he possessed. Shifted from the middle order to opener by Sourav Ganguly, Sehwag came into his own, batting with a derring-do and disdain for bowlers, pace or spin, like few others in the history of the game.

From all the batters I’ve seen, only two filled the opposing teams with fear of God — Vivian Richards and Sehwag.

Richards, often likened to one-time heavyweight boxing champion `Smokin Joe Frazier’, had the power, swag and strokes to destroy attacks.

Sehwag didn’t have the same swag or power, but he had gumption and the strokes, many of them invented to break the hearts and backs of bowlers on any pitch, in all conditions.

Two Test triple centuries -- and 21 more besides – is testimony to his skills. He wasn’t a reckless hitter, throwing his bat mindlessly at each ball.

Rather, he had exceptional reflexes and eye, a sharp mind that processed the percentage of a shot with the speed of a computer, and great hands that used the bat with amazing dexterity.

Only towards the end of his career, when slowing reflexes exposed his defence, did Sehwag look vulnerable.

At his best – which was for the most part – attack was his only defence, his temerity and range of strokes leaving bowlers and opponents bewildered and beaten.

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