Day in the life of Laing: From car chases to snapping Hansie Cronje

Photographer Anne LaingPhotographer Laing, a common sight in stadiums across South Africa

Anne Laing is by now used to courting baffled glances. Or being singled out in a massive crowd. She has been the odd one out for long enough, lugging along her trusted camera to sporting venues around South Africa.

The backpack covers the 55-year-old's spine that has already undergone two major operations. The zoom lens that accompanies her is almost the size of the veteran photographer. But Laing is unrelenting. Her roving eyes hardly miss a good shot while her two hands work with clockwork precision. On Wednesday, as India and South Africa face each other in the third ODI, Laing will complete 30 years of what has been an illustrious career.

During that time, Laing, who now works for South African Cricket magazine, has been counted among the top snappers in the country. More importantly, she's paved the way for many sports-loving women like her to get behind the lens professionally during a three-decade long career where she's shot over 300 international cricket matches and an equal number of rugby games.

Along the way, the pioneer had to fight severe discrimination, mainly on the basis of her gender.

"I was refused a job at the Cape Times newspaper in 1984 just because I was a woman. As luck would have it one of their regular staffers fell ill and I was asked to fill in. Within six months, I was the head of the department there," says Laing, her wrinkled face breaking into a cheery smile.

Despite the early break, holding her own in a field dominated by men wasn't easy. And it took a lot many path-breaking assignments for her to convince the industry that women too could hold their own on the sidelines of a sporting contest.

South Africa's return from isolation in the early 1990s brought international sport back to the Rainbow Nation and Laing was ready with her trusted camera. Through this epoch, she was a regular at cricket and rugby stadiums around the country. At the turn of the century, word about her work had spread across the globe. But then, in the winter of 2000, came her biggest assignment yet, when she became the first photographer to click a picture of disgraced South African captain Hansie Cronje after he had gone into hiding post the match-fixing scandal.

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