Ujjwala Pawar: ‘We played in front of 50,000 people in the late 1970’s’

Ujjwala Nikam Pawar takes great pride in a direct throw run-out she effected from the boundary line, which was applauded by former India men’s captain Chandu Borde. “He was a witness,” she says eagerly, as if the feat had been disbelieved earlier. But that’s in the aftermath of two of her earlier international series against Australia and New Zealand being deemed unofficial for reasons that are now unclear to one of India’s earliest captains.

“I did play 16 Test matches. Somehow a few were declared unofficial and it affected our pension slabs,” she says, urging to be believed. Yet she’s grateful to Maharashtra state ladies association, WICA and BCCI who helped women’s cricket along the way.

For someone who swapped great softball skills for cricket and was part of the earliest teams, provenance has become important now. She still holds the current team to high standards as a legend of the ladies game. “In the recent World Cup, their fielding was not upto the mark. And there were careless run-outs. Not done,” she says sternly.

For someone who never dreamt that she could be paid to play a sport she loved, Ujjwala says it’s upto the present bunch to deliver the goods now that the WPL contracts carry impressive sums. “We never got any money. Just trophies. Now it’s upto them to make the best use of what they are getting,” she says strictly, but ungrudgingly, adding they never compared with what other nations got.

“We were not smart enough then to think we should own personal kits!” she quips of an earlier time.

Women’s cricket was popular through the 70s and got good crowds at Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata. “40-50 thousand crowd we have played in front of against the West Indies. I’m not sure why the momentum was lost. It’s a challenge for this generation of spectators now too, if they can revive the popularity of women’s cricket,” she ends.

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