An encounter with Hrishikesh Kanitkar, India's domestic giant
- I had this opportunity to talk to him for a while and was lucky enough to get myself clicked as well. One could see that passion and love for cricket in his eyes.
It was during the month of October in 2012 that Rajasthan were about to start their Ranji Trophy campaign for the 2012-13 session. Popularity of the sport in Rajasthan was at all time high because of the growth in infrastructure as well as opportunities that came with the arrival of Indian Premier League. Despite not having produced any international player in the last few decades, we had a team of our own.
Emergence of players like Ashok Menaria and Robin Bisht, who were continuously knocking on the doors of the Indian team back then, gave more reason for joy.
Add to that the two consecutive Ranji Trophy triumphs which came as a surprise even to the most optimistic Rajasthan fan. After a long time, Rajasthan had a team which could compete with the likes of Delhi, Mumbai and Karnataka. It had less-known yet highly talent players like Aakash Chopra, R R Parida, Robin Bisht, Ashok Menaria and Pankaj Singh.
The captain of this team was none other than Hrishikesh Kanitkar, one of the finest batsmen Indian cricket has ever seen.
1998 Independence Cup and Kanitkar’s finest moment
Kanitkar’s name takes us long back to 1998 when India played against Pakistan in the final of Independence Cup. A match where Kanitkar announced his arrival – not with a century or a 5-wicket haul – but with a score of 11 not out. India required 3 runs off 2 balls to win. Playing in his 2nd ODI, Kanitkar is well remembered by Indian fans, smashing an in-form Saqlain Mushtaq over the mid wicket boundary for 4 runs and thus winning the game for India.
In his next match he scored 57 runs against a quality Australian attack which included the likes of Shane Warne. Given his ability to bowl a few overs when required, it looked like India's search for an all-rounder was finally over. He was hailed as the next big thing in Indian cricket and was given a fair number of chances in ODIs which he failed to make the best of.
His biggest opportunity came when he was flown halfway around the world from West Indies, where he was leading the India A side – to Australia to replace Ajay Jadeja in Team India. However, failure in a couple of Tests and ODIs brought down curtains on his international career earlier than expected. Since then however, Kanitkar remained a prolific run-scorer in domestic cricket for Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
An encounter in the nets
Coming back to the year 2012, Rajasthan were set to play their first match against Mumbai in Jaipur. I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the players to bowl in the nets and like my other friends, I was more interested to meet the stars of Mumbai team than my own players. Mumbai has always had a star studded line up and even then they had players like Rohit Sharma, Ajit Agarkar, Ramesh Powar and Abhishek Nayar among others.
The teams had a small net session and most of the players left for their hotel. I was also packing my stuff and was ready to leave. Just then I saw a familiar figure coming out of the indoor academy. Yes, it was the captain of Rajasthan's Ranji team, India's long forgotten hero Hrishikesh Kanitkar.
15 years after that famous India win, Kanitkar remained a down to earth personality. I had this opportunity to talk to him for a while and was lucky enough to get myself clicked as well. One could see a passion and love for cricket in his eyes. His knowledge and understanding about the game tells you how he survived for so long in India’s domestic circuit.
He announced his retirement this week, from all forms of cricket, having scored more than 8000 domestic runs. His tally of 28 Ranji centuries is the third joint highest in the tournament's history. He also remains the only captain to win both the Plate and Elite league titles. However, for any cricket follower, Hrishikesh Kanitkar was more than just numbers.Published 04 Jul 2015, 23:54 IST