Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The forgotten.....

Prem's post (which linked me to an article by Rajaraman in Outlook) got me thinking about a couple of cricketers who were considered bright prospects, but for reasons unbeknown just never made it big, or had the chance to perform at the highest levels.

I am a firm believer in the general prevalence of a 'godfather' system in the Indian selection system. The 'quota'-raj ofcourse needs to be thrown out sooner rather than later, if we have to have the best team. There have been umpteen cases of lesser mortals donning the Indian cap at the expense of a few good men.

Sometime back Dr. Ramachandra Guha had conjectured on the scenario had Rajinder Goel played for India. He played before my time, and unfortunately I dont think I have seen films of him in action either. I think he was rated up there with the Spin Quartet, but never got a look-in because it would have meant dropping Bedi! In an interview with Cricinfo a couple of years ago, he was pretty matter-of-fact in stating that had he been born in another era, he would have been a shoo-in for the Indian cricket team. Paddy Shivalkar and Dilip Doshi were two other good spinners who lost out like Goel. (Doshi did play 33 tests, picking up 114 wickets, but had an uneasy equation with Sunny that ultimately led to the end of his stint with the Indian team).

Sometime in the early 90s the Haryana Ranji team was a force to reckon with on the domestic circuit. Besides Kapil, Chetan Sharma and a young Aja Jadeja, there was a (roly-poly) gentleman named Amarjeet Kaypee who just kept piling the runs on (to use a cricketing cliche!). He holds the record for the maximum runs scored in the Ranji Trophy (a record that was previously held by another pocket roller and joker called Ashok Malhotra), but never came close to being considered for the Indian team. It came as no surprise to hear his gripes.

One exclusion which has always intrigued me has been Amol Muzumdar's. He was (and is) one talented bloke, but has never gotten his due from the selectors. It is unfortunate that he too played in an era when the Indian middle-order was packed with the likes of Dravid, Laxman, Tendulkar and Ganguly. Now with the emergence of Kaif and Yuvraj, I don't see him making the team. Like Rajinder Goel, he will probably go down in the books as one of the greatest Indian batsmen never to have played for India.

Kanwaljeet Singh, the right arm offie for Hyderabad was infinitely more talented than his Hyd counterpart Venkatapathy "Muscles" Raju, but the closest he came to donning Indian colors was when he played for India 'A' against the touring England 'A' side in 1994-95. Though people say that his age was a factor, I guess it was more than that. The selectors probably had forgotten one Pat Symcox who played for the Proteas well into his forties, and was belting the bowlers all over the park!

Vikram Rathour
and Sunil Joshi were two guys who made their debut on the Indian tour of England in 1996-97. Both had done extremely well in the first-class season in India, Rathour with the bat, while Joshi was being touted as the next all-rounder! But then the pitches in England and S.Africa exposed Rathour's inadequacies and he lost his place in the side. The reason he got a look-in was probably as a candidate for the opening slot. Joshi did marginally better than Rathour, but again just faded pretty much into oblivion with the rise of Harbhajan and Murali Kartik. The all-rounder debate still rages on. We have had flashes glimpses, caught out of the corner of our eyes - Agarkar's century at Lords, Irfan Pathan's bat-wielding skills are impressive, Zaheer hoicking Olonga out of the ground; but nothing which we can rely on as yet!

There hasn't been a single Mallu of note who has made waves on the domestic (forget international) cricket scene (Author's note: We're getting parochial arent we!). In my humble opinion, neither Abey Kuruvilla nor Tinu Yohannan (I cant think of any other Mallu who has made it to the Indian cricket team) were Indian-team material. KP Bhaskar was a force to reckon with on the domestic circuit in the mid-80s through the early 90s with Delhi (yeah, all Mallus prosper when they're out of the motherland!). Sambit Bal from Cricinfo paid tribute to the gentleman the other day in an interesting article.

In Sambit's article, he speaks about a few cricketers who were domestic lions, but tame pussycats on the big stage - Ashok Mankad, Brijesh Patel, Ashok Malhotra. Kambli and Graeme Hick (to digress a bit from the Indian system) were two players who were destined for better things, but just never made it big. [I think Hick is the only cricketer in the last 20 years to have scored a century of first-class centuries]. Kambli simply took it easy once he belted the Pommies and hapless Zimbabweans in 1993, while Hick just couldnt handle pace. I remember the Windies tour of India in 1994-95, when Kambli's weakness came to the fore and all of us in class were fervently hoping that he would manage to overcome it. Sad to say, he never did, and remains te prime example of the Indian cricketer who had everything going for him, but never lived up to his talents.

All these guys got "opportunities to fail" (as Sambit put it). On the other hand, poor KP Bhaskar (and Amarjeet Kaypee and Rajinder Goel) will forever remain "what-could-have-beens" questions in Indian cricket!

[This was started out on June 2nd 2005, and finished on June 7th, as u can see!]

1 comment:

Sunil said...

I think the Mallu who should feel most disappointed should be leg spinner KN Ananthapadmanaban (i think his long southie name went against his selection). He was (and perhaps still is) the best spinner in the country (after Anil Kumble), and rakes in the wickets in Ranji cricket. He's got a bowling strike rate of 62 (as good as Kumble's test average) and an average of 27. A spinner with an average of 27 in INDIA is almost spectacular.