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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

they were talented but opportunities never beckoned for them !!!

I vaguely remember that in 1983, Triplicane suddenly became abuzz – news was TA Sekar, a quickie of Tamil Nadu team had been called mid-way to Pakistan as a replacement.  In mid-noon, he visited Sri Parthasarathi Swami temple and a few youngsters ran behind him, not knowing how to reach to him, may be to touch and shake hands with him, or get his signature – not the days, when could take a selfie !!

There have been some touted very fast – yet not made the cut at the National level, for no fault of theirs.  The big burly Yograj Singh was said to be faster than Kapil Dev by yards, toured Australia / New Zealand – played his only Test at Wellington took a wicket in the only innings that he bowled. In the 2nd NZ were all out for 100, but Yograj did not get to bowl. 


Thirumalai Ananthanpillai Sekar landed in Pakistan not knowing what to do – perhaps not at all coordinated and made his debut immediately upon landing, in ODI no. 172 at National stadium, Karachi.  A could of days later on 23rd Jan 1983, he made his Test debut at Gadaffi Stadium, Lahore.  That was to be a disastrous tour for India. 

TA Sekar had been a quite sensation at home with his quality pace with red cherry, troubling almost all the batsman, including those big names in Indian Test cricket. In Ranji, he got a wicket off his very first ball.  Sekar was to replace the injured Madanlal at Pakistan and perhaps was not at all that supported by the team stalwarts.  In the final Test at Karachi, the 6th of the long Series,  Dilip Vengsarkar dropped Mudassar and Javed Miandad in the same over and another one  went abegging  those were the days, when Indian slip fielders would stand with hands on hip and would walk to retrieve the ball from boundary.  Fast bowlers, especially with little experience could do little, cannot even stare at them !  One cannot help hazarding a guess, what those catches could have done to his career !!  He last represented India in a 15 over match !! – it was ODI 298 at Sector 16 Stadium, Chandigarh on 27 Jan 1985.  In rain shortened match, England made 121 off 15 overs.  TA Sekar had figures of 3-0-23-3 bowling alongside Kapil Dev, Manoj Prabhakar, Chetan Sharma and Ravi Shastri. The 1970s was even worser – have heard of Barun Burman who lost out to Kapil Dev for that 1978 Pak tour.  Kapil was phenomenal beginning in that tour and blossomed much.

Nothing to beat this perhaps ~ read this interesting article in ESPN Cricinfo stating that this man would make debut at 67 !  - it is about Pandurang Salgaoncar, who would  make a Test debut on Thursday, and he be damned if someone denies him this time. Those who have watched Salgaoncar, (67 now), bowl in the 1970s swear by his pace. Salgaoncar himself never tires of telling you how he made batsmen run away in fear. He once hit Sunil Gavaskar on the hand, forcing him to miss the next Test. That was enough to spread the word in the whole country but the selectors. He came close to playing for India on three occasions, all in the two years leading to first World Cup.

In Nov. 1972, in the  Duleep Trophy semi-final between South and West Zone in mid-November featured many of the stars of those recent Test victories. Farokh Engineer (by then a rarity on the domestic circuit, as he lived most of the year in Lancashire) was West Zone's keeper. More  enticingly, Nawab Mansur Ali Khan of Pataudi was returning to cricket after a self-imposed exile from the game. He joined Gundappa Viswanath  in the middle order of South Zone's batting line-up. Still others (Ramnath Parkar and Michael Dalvi, for instance) were knocking on Test cricket's doors. Today's fans might be taken aback to know that Chepauk was filled to the brim for a domestic encounter. With such an all-star cast, the show was stolen by a relatively unknown West Zone player: a strapping young fast bowler with a disarmingly toothy smile, called Pandurang Salgaoncar.

In those days, Chepauk was a square turner of a pitch, where nearly all the wickets accrued to spinners and most matches were low-scoring thrillers.  In South's first innings, Salgaoncar finished with 5 for 55 off about 18 overs, but it was in the second innings that he really lit up the place. When South began their second innings 83 runs in arrears, and we were well into the final day's morning of a three-day match, a draw loomed as the most likely outcome. As the shocked Chepauk crowd dispersed, our partisan disappointment at losing the match was greatly tempered by the thought that maybe, just maybe, we had finally unearthed a genuine fast bowler.  Yet barely 38 overs later (17 of which were bowled by Salgaoncar), South had been skittled for 97 runs and West won the match outright by ten wickets shortly after tea. Salgaoncar ran through South's line-up like a freight train crashing through a picket fence, timber flying all over the place. He picked up another five-for, this time for 56 runs, to make it ten for the match.

Less than a week later, Salgaoncar was at it again. In the Duleep final he grabbed 7 for 72 in the first innings as Central Zone careened to an innings defeat.  Yet, he could not break into the Indian team.  Month later,  India's new-ball "attack" plumbed the depths by the third Test, at Chepauk, when Eknath Solkar and Sunil Gavaskar took the shining cherry in the first innings, and (dispensing any pretense at all) Bishan Bedi joined Solkar to open the bowling in the second.

Though Salgaoncar was strongly tipped to catch the flight to England as India's tour got underway in May of 1974, he again, inexplicably, did not make the cut. In fact, Salgaoncar never played for India. Salgaoncar went to Sri Lanka to play unofficial Tests in 1974, and fondly remembers a match in which he bowled 24 overs out of 55.4 to help enforce a follow-on. He then bowled 38 overs in the follow-on. Madan Lal was his new-ball partner in that match. He took 10 wickets to Salgaoncar's seven, and made it to the England tour later that year. Representing West Zone against a strong West Indies XI, Salgaoncar took out Roy Fredericks and Alvin Kallicharan in his first spell but lost out to Abid Ali, who would allow Tiger Pataudi to play an extra spinner. In 1975, Salgaoncar says, he bowled 12 overs for 11 runs in a trial match for World Cup team selection, but wasn't chosen.

Salgaoncar has recently had bariatric surgery to get rid of more than 20 kilos, and with that diabetes etc. "I can eat any sweets I want," he says, but there is a certain bitterness towards India and Indian cricket that still persists. He is now the curator at the MCA Ground in Pune. "This is finally going to be my Test debut," he says.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
22nd Feb 2017.

** the latter part excerpted from Cricinfo.com

3 comments:

  1. Very fine article Srinivasan... I do remember you playing in senior division league with the black scarf around your neck...... I am Shivakumar who played for Presidency from 1973-79..... offspinner... played for Youngsters/Free Lancers/Jolly Rovers..... emaile me your contact details.... my email id is shivkay@yahoo.com

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  2. All oldies Club- I played for Sir Theagaraya College Washermenpet as Captain and played prominent role for Sir Theagarya RC in fourth division league as well. I carried my bat throughout in a league match vs Shivaji CC- 23 not out out of a score of 63 and against Engg College Guindy I took 7 for 28 to create a sensation in collegiate cricket= Taking 3 wickets in my first over with the new ball

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  3. My email id is cksumpire@gmail.com and TAS is my facebook friend and we once met in Anna Nagar West

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