Five forgotten Indian cricketers
Touted by many as an exciting prospect for Indian cricket in the late nineties, Hrishikesh Kanitkar was a left-handed batsman and a part-time off spinner who represented the country in both Tests and ODIs. Having represented Maharashtra and Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy, Kanitkar, when he retired in 2015, was one of the only three batsmen to have scored more than 8000 runs in India’s elite first class competition and also the only Ranji captain to lift the Elite and Plate titles. Son of former Indian wicketkeeper Hemant Kanitkar, Hrishikesh’s exploits against Pakistan in the Silver Jubilee Independence Cup final at Dhaka in 1998 should forever be etched in the memory of every Indian fan. His match-winning heroics with a four off Saqlain Mushtaq in the final over, powered India to a victory in the then-record chase of 315.
A former right-handed batsman and right-arm offbreak bowler, and architect of Karnataka’s three Ranji Trophy triumphs, Vijay Bharadwaj was a fine talent. Bharadwaj earned a national call-up after a successful domestic season which saw him amassing more than 1000 runs, following which he made his ODI debut in the LG Cup in Nairobi. He surprised everyone with his brilliant all-round display and was duly rewarded with the Man of the Series. A lower back problem in 2000 undoing his international career, and an eye operation that went wrong which effectively curtailed his domestic career, was terribly devastating news to Bharadwaj, who later went on to be the assistant coach of Royal Challengers Bangalore, and the fielding coach of Oman during the ICC World T20 in 2016.
Son of World Cup-winning bowler Roger Binny, Stuart has donned the India colours quite a few times, and currenly represents Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League. His all-round abilities were noticed when he signed up for the rebel Indian Cricket League in 2007, playing for Hyderabad Heroes. After accepting the amnesty offer of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Binny performed well in the domestic circuit for the state of Karnataka. Stuart Binny amazed one and all in a match-winning bowling display against Bangladesh, ending with record figures of 6/4, which is still the best bowling effort by an Indian bowler in ODIs (He surpassed Anil Kumble’s 6/12 against West Indies).
An incredible enigma of a bowler, Narendra Hirwani had a short but brilliant career, which has been unfortunately forgotten by many of us cricket followers. His skill sets were in play predominantly in the Test format wherein he prised out 66 wickets in 17 matches, as opposed to his modest tally of 23 wickets from 18 matches in the ODIs. Unlike many notable players, the leggie from UP’s Gorakhpur dazzled everyone by way of his Herculean effort in his debut Test match against West Indies. The Chennai Test proved to deliver incredible returns for Hirwani as he delivered a mighty bowling performance to win the match singlehandedly for Team India with match figures of 16/136. His innings haul is a joint-record in Test Cricket which stands even today, for a debutant, along with Bob Massie. His first four tests resulted in 36 wickets in what was an astounding feat.
Having only picked a combined total of five wickets from the eight international matches, the all-rounder from Haryana, Joginder Sharma, has probably not done enough to warrant frequent national call-ups. But fans of Indian cricket can not; rather, should not forget the invaluable contribution that the all-rounder made in India’s historic win at the ICC World T20 in South Africa. After seeing Joginder bowl admirably well under pressure in the semifinal against Australia, captain MS Dhoni decided to bowl him in the final over, with a rampaging Misbah ul-Haq threatening to win the match for Pakistan in the title showdown at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. Misbah mishit a wide delivery from Sharma to short fine leg, where S Sreesanth gleefully accepted the dolly catch, sparking delirious scenes. Joginder was an overnight sensation, and subsequently, he faded away from the limelight following a spate of sporadic international appearances.