Sunday, February 26, 2006

Adios Hirwani

I was reading a copy of Sportstar the other day, and read that Narendra Hirwani had retired from first-class cricket. It brought back memories of the late 80s when he castled the Windies on debut at Madras - which is what most people remember when the name Hirwani is mentioned.
It was probably the first time I was hearing about a single bowler claiming such a huge haul, and that too on debut. Little had I heard of Jim Laker, and it would be another 5-6 years before Murali/Warne came into the international limelight. The other name in the papers was Bob Massie (another one-Test wonder) whose record of 16 wickets on debut was emulated by Hirwani.
What has slipped past in tributes to Hirwani was his role in ODIs, and his stellar role in India winning the Sharjah Cup in 1987-88 - one of India's few successes in the desert storms it has had to weather at Sharjah. Agreed, the other teams were NZ and SL, but he had them flummoxed with 4-wicket hauls against both.
Sadly, he just faded away into relative oblivion after that. He picked up wickets by the bucketful every season in the Ranji Trophy and made a couple of comebacks into the test side, but did nothing of note.
But yes, ask any cricket-crazy bloke in his mid-20s or 30s and they will tell you how this bespectacled bloke who bamboozled the mighty Windies at the Chepauk all those years ago. Jasu Patel who wreaked havoc on the Aussies at Kanpur in the 1959-60 series with a 14-wicket haul (9-69 in the first innings, something probably unheard of during those days in Indian cricket) passed on quietly, largely forgotten. Hirwani's place in Indian cricketing lore is safe - I hope.

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