Saturday, February 18, 2006

UNSUNG HEROES

The retirement of Narendra Hirwani from the Indian first class scene did not get the attention that it deserved. Few of today's cricket followers can talk about the achievements of the leg spinner. It was Hirwani who spun India to an improbable win at Chepauk, then in Madras over the mighty West Indies captained by Viv Richards. For the record, Hirwani took 16 wickets in his debut match.

Hirwani made leg spin glamorous with the sharp turn and the dark glasses. For many of my contemporaries, leg spin was something to gain cricket glory.Add to the cricketing exploits, the alleged romantic affair with a budding television actress. After the heady start, there was a decline in the cricketing fortunes of Hirwani. But he continued to make many a domestic batsman to dance to his spin, year after year.

In the same lines, Rajinder Goel of Haryana and Padmakar Shivalkar of Bombay and not to forget V.V.Kumar of Madras continued to serve their teams long after their hopes of playing for the country faded. Also, mention has to be made of Kanwaljeet Singh of Hyderabad and Ananthapadmanabhan of Kerala who played every season for a long time as if their survival depended on it. To this list of spinners, a medium pacer by the name of Zaidi has to be added.

It is these gentlemen who have made Indian cricket richer by the effort and the often ignored performance. Cynics may scoff that this reflects the lack of new players. Perhaps, they were not as lucky as the few who represented the country or that they were simply born at the wrong time.

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