Hrishikesh Kanitkar: The cricketer remembered for a boundary
With light fading and three runs needed off two balls, Hrishikesh Kanitkar hoicked Saqlain Mushtaq for a four over mid-wicket - this completed a record run chase then and the whole of India celebrated the victory over Pakistan in the third final of the Independence Cup at Dhaka.
In India's cricketing circle, no other boundary is as celebrated as this particular one- even MS Dhoni’s six to finish the 2011 World Cup final would probably come second. Kanitkar was hailed as a hero his match-winning four.
The tournament was Silver Jubilee Independence Cup held at Dhaka in 1997-98. The intense rivalry between India and Pakistan and the pressure of the third and decisive final along with the simmering political relationship meant that there was more to play for than a trophy or a series win.
The tournament, organised to celebrate the silver jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence, saw India and Pakistan overwhelm the hosts in the group stage. India and Pakistan trounced each other in the first two finals.
In the third final, Pakistan, batting first, went on to post a mammoth total of 314 in 48 overs. Saeed Anwar scored a century as was his norm against India. With Ijaz Ahmed too notching up a century, India knew that their openers would have to fire to fancy any chances of winning the match.
In response, Sachin Tendulkar raced to 41 off 26 balls, and with one-down batsman Robin Singh scoring an almost run a ball 82, India got the required impetus at the top. Sourav Ganguly scored 124 but his dismissal and a the then-familiar middle order collapse meant that the match went down to the wire.
With Javagal Srinath scoring valuable runs (the irony being he scored only five that day) and more importantly giving the strike back to Kanitkar, India needed 3 runs off two balls. With Kanitkar sealing the match with a four on the penultimate ball of the match, the whole of India erupted.
The particular boundary even overshadowed Ganguly’s century and is talked about even now. Hrishikesh Kanitkar’s name is synonymous with the boundary although he has quite a few other remarkable achievements in domestic cricket too.
Kanitkar started by playing for his home state Maharashtra and in course of time moved to Madhya Pradesh and then Rajasthan.
He played Test cricket - and just like his father Hemant Kanitkar, he ended up playing only two Tests. He came into the one day team as an allrounder and was a very good fielder - a laudable trait in an era when fielding was considered secondary to other skills.
Although he scored well over 10000 runs in domestic cricket, he could not establish himself in the international stage. He also used to bowl steady off-breaks.
He could not produce stellar performances and thus lost his place in the national side. He continued in domestic cricket and led Rajasthan to their maiden Ranji trophy win in 2010-11 - a notable achievement.
The achievement was proved no fluke when they emerged victorious in the next year too - Kanitkar thereby having the rare distinction of having lifted both Plate and Elite league titles in Ranji trophy.
He also excelled as a coach - his man-management skills have been extolled by various teams. His ability to create a congenial atmosphere and push even juniors or substitutes to contribute have been appreciated by the Tamil Nadu Ranji team.
Although the boundary resulted in a famous victory, Hrishikesh Kanitkar continues to be underrated as his International record is not note-worthy and his domestic cricket achievements not ostentatious.