Wednesday, July 1, 2020

the man who took most wickets in Ranji but never played a Test is no more !!


In life, often we hear people say that they performed so well, but had no luck or were overshadowed by the efforts of somebody else.  One of my bosses used to say, that even for regular things he had to struggle, while others got them so easily – is life cruel to some – perhaps yes, when you read the story of this spinner who passed away today !

In Mar 2020,  Jaydev Unadkat was rocking – he  was the top performer for Saurashtra  claiming  seven wickets to guide his team to the Ranji Trophy final with a victory over Gujarat. In the process,  he became the highest wicket taker in a single Ranji season with  65. The previous record belonged to Karnataka’s Dodda Ganesh who took 62 wickets in 1998-99. When it comes to the overall record, he overtook Bishan Singh Bedi (64 wickets) and is   just four wickets away from claiming the top spot which is occupied by Bihar spinner Ashutosh Aman who claimed 68 wickets for his side in the 2018-19 season.

When Maninder Singh made his debut in 1982, it looked as if, he would be the torchbearer of Indian spin bowling for a long time – sadly, he faded never doing justice to his potential.  He was a pale shadow of Bishan Singh Bedi. Though there were Vinoo Mankad, Babu  Nadkarni and other left arm spinners , I had watched and heard of Bedi,  Karshan Ghavri (spin too), Dhiraj Parsanna,  Dilip Doshi, Raghuram Bhat, Maninder, Ravi Shastri, WV Raman, Venkatapathi Raju, Sunil Joshi, Nilesh Kulkarni, Rahul Sanghvi, Murali Karthik, Pragyan Ojha, Ravindra Jadeja, KUldeep Yadhav and quite a few more in Ranji circuit – Rajinder Singh Hans, Padmakar Shivalkar, Rajinder Goel, B Vijaykrishna, S Vasudevan, Sunil Subramaniam and ………… ………. Shadab Jakati, Shabaz Nadeem ……… ..

Those days, during August, we would rush to Marina and Chepauk to see quality 3 day matches – Ashok Mankad would descend with a team from Mumbai and quite a few from that would go on to represent India.  SBI too participated – have seen Parthasarathi Sharma, Gundappa Vishwanath, Goel, Syed Kirmani, Abid Ali and others play at Marina.

When Kim Hughes toured India – the visitors played North Zone to a draw at  Sher-i-Kashmir Stadium, Srinagar in Sept 1979.  A man who had always been overshadowed by Bedi took the wickets of Andrew Hilditch, WM Darling, Kim Hughes, KJ Wright, Geoff Dymock and John Higgs – taking 6/104.  In the second he took 3/43 – Bruce Yardley, Wright and Hughes.


The man, very unfortunate that he never played for India - Rajinder Goel,  is the highest wicket-taker in the history of the Ranji Trophy with 637 strikes. In all, the Haryana left-arm spinner bagged 750 wickets in 157 first-class matches from 1958-59 to 1984-85.  

Sunil Gavaskar has listed 31 idols in his book of the same name published in 1983. Left arm spinner Rajinder Goel figures in the elite group. 

He played in one unofficial Test against Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1964-65. Had he been born in any other era, he would almost certainly have got a break at the highest level, but Bishen Bedi's presence put paid to his aspirations. He was to say,  it was a game that fate played on him ("yeh sab kismat ka khel hai"). Despite the heartache, Goel's simplicity and good manners endeared him to one and all, from a dreaded dacoit imprisoned in Gwalior jail to Gavaskar.   

Rajinder Goel  the great left arm spinner is no more ! ~ he passed away today @ 77.  

The son of an assistant station master in the Indian Railways, Goel   started his first class career with Patiala, which then evolved into the Southern Punjab team. He moved to Delhi in 1963 and Haryana ten years later.  When Bedi was dropped from the team for the Bangalore Test against West Indies in 1974-75 on disciplinary grounds for appearing in a BBC interview, Goel was selected to the Indian team but was excluded at the last moment. Goel went past V. V. Kumar's Ranji record of 417 wckets in the 1978-79 season. His 600th wicket was Chandrakant Pandit  in the Ranji semifinal against Bombay in 1983-84.

Goel is one of two non-Test cricketers, the other being Padmakar Shivalkar, who Sunil Gavaskar chose among his "idols" in his book the same name. "He is the one bowler whom I have really dreaded facing in my life," he wrote about Goel. During his playing days, Goel was employed with the State Bank of India. He later served as a selector for Haryana and the Indian junior teams. His son Nitin Goel was also a first class cricketer for Haryana.

Rajinder Goel tops the Ranji wicket takers with 637 followed by Srinivasan Venikatraghavan 531; Sunil Joshi 479;   Vinay Kumar 442; Narendra Hirwani 441 and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar 437.

Life is cruel to some ! ~ Rajinder tops that list perhaps

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
21.6.2020

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