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5 unlikely Indian heroes who have now been forgotten

Deeptesh Sen
FEATURED WRITER
Editor's Pick
44.47K   //    Timeless

International cricket is so cruel that a lot of great players are never given the long rope by selectors in spite of their great performances. Indian cricket is full of such examples -- players who promised much and gave match-winning performances but were dropped early in their careers.Over the years, there have been unlikely heroes for India, who with superhuman performances won matches for India when people least expected them to do well.Let us look at 5 such Indian cricket heroes who have now been forgotten.  

#5 Sadanand Viswanath

Sadanand Vishwanath (kneeling, extreme left), a forgotten hero of the World Championship glory

Long before MS Dhoni became successful, the Indian team boasted of a series of brilliant wicket-keeper in the early 80s. Syed Kirmani bowed out in the mid-1980s and was succeeded by Kiran More till the mid-90s. There was also Chandrakant Pandit who was so good with the bat that he even played as a specialist batsman.

But the man who was perhaps more talented than this trio but enjoyed the least international success was Sadanand Viswanath. An ODI average of 9.00 and a Test average of 6.20 hardly tells you the entire story. His highest ODI score of 23 not out against Australia in the 4th ODI at Nagpur in 1984 was a match-winning innings.

Chasing 241, India were 204 for 7 when Viswanath joined Ravi Shastri. As Shastri played the holding role, Viswanath took the Australian attack to the cleaners, finishing with a match-winning 23 off 25 balls.

He is also remembered for his remarkable glove-work during the World Championship of Cricket held in Australia in 1985. The Indian batting did wonders in that tournament so that Viswanath had to bat only once. His most significant contribution, however, came from  behind the stumps as he finished the tournament with 9 catches and 3 stumpings.

In the final against Pakistan at the MCG, his stumping off Shivaramakrishnan to dismiss Miandad is still talked about to this day. It was brilliant glovework -- fast, furious and completed in the blink of an eye.

Gavaskar went on to write about him in One Day Wonders: “People will talk about many other reasons why we won the World Championship of Cricket in 1985 but one of the main reasons was the presence of Sadanand Viswanath behind the stumps.”

#4 Narendra Hirwani

Narendra Hirwani terrorised the West Indies batsmen in a Test in 1988

For a leg spinner who was touted to be the next Indian legend, Narendra Hirwani is unfortunately remembered only by a handful of cricket historians these days. Though never considered to be an ODI specialist having bagged a modest 23 wickets in his 18 ODIs, he picked up an incredible 66 wickets from the 17 Tests he played for India.

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His most famous achievement was perhaps his match-winning spells in his debut Test against the West Indies at Chennai in 1988. Hirwani turned the ball prodigiously and slipped in googlies in between to quickly get rid of Richardson, Logie and Hopper. The West Indies ended the day at 147 for 5 with Sir Viv Richards unbeaten on 62.

According to one popular anecdote, the rookie leg-spinner had pledged to get rid of the legendary Richards the next day. He had told his roommate Chetan Sharma: “Uska danda maroonga.” (I will get him bowled.) He was true to this word as the West Indian great failed to read a flipper and Hirwani castled him in his second over the next day.

Hirwani finished with 1st innings figures of 18.3-3-61-8. Chasing a huge total of 416 to win, the West Indies once again succumbed to Hirwani's magic in the 2nd innings. Hirwani was almost unplayable now as he ran through the famous West Indian line-up once again, coming away with figures of 15.2-3-75-8.

Hirwani picked 16 wickets in his debut Test to equal Bob Massie's record for most Test wickets in a match by a debutant -- a joint record that still stands to this day. Hirwani continued his great form against the Kiwis in the next series and had an astounding tally of 36 wickets from his first 4 Tests.

#3 Hrishikesh Kanitkar

Kanitkar was India’s hero in what was then the world record ODI chase

For a brief period in the late 90s, Hrishikesh Kanitkar was considered to be a great batting prospect for India. But 2 Tests and 34 ODIs later, Kanitkar was forgotten and added to the list of innumerable Indian cricketers who had promised much but faded out eventually.

With 74 runs in his two Tests and 339 ODI runs at an average of 17.84, Kanitkar failed to impress much during his short international career. But his defining moment, for which he is still fondly remembered by some, is the match-winning heroics he came up with against Pakistan at the Silver Jubilee International Cup final at Dhaka in 1998.

In that 3rd final at Dhaka, Pakistan had posted a mammoth 314 thanks to a brilliant knock of 140 by Saeed Anwar. Chasing 315 from 48 overs for an unlikely victory, Sourav Ganguly (124) and Robin Singh (82) had steadied the ship. Their departure had, however, led to a mini collapse and the equation came down to 9 required off the last 6 balls.

With Saqlain Mushtaq bowling, Srinath kept swinging away blindly for twos until Kanitkar came on strike with India needing 3 runs off 2 balls for victory. Kanitkar calmly lofted Saqlain on the leg-side for a famous four as India recorded what was back then the world record ODI run chase for victory.

#2 Rajesh Chauhan

Rajesh Chauhan’s moment of glory in Indian colours came as a batsman

Rajesh Chauhan was a promising prospect for India in the 90s as he formed a spinning trio with Venkatapathy Raju and Anil Kumble. His career statistics are modest, with 47 wickets in Tests and 29 ODI wickets in his kitty.

But for a tail-ender who has only managed to score 132 runs from 35 ODIs at an average of 10.15, it is astounding to think perhaps that his moment of glory in the Indian colours came as a batsman. Some even consider it to be the most significant and well-remembered contribution of Chauhan to Indian cricket.

In the 2nd ODI against Pakistan at Karachi in 1997, India were in a spot of bother while chasing a commendable total of 266 from 47 overs. The equation had come down to 8 required off the last over with 2 wickets remaining. With Saqlain Mushtaq bowling and Rajesh Chauhan on strike, the home fans in the stadium were celebrating their imminent victory.

The challenge before Chauhan was to get bat on ball and give the strike to Robin Singh at the other end. Chauhan stepped out, converted Saqlain's attempted yorker into a full-toss and swung hard on the leg-side. The ball sailed over the square-leg boundary for a huge six and Chauhan became an unlikely hero in a famous Indian victory.

#1 Joginder Sharma

Joginder Sharma, despite his limited matches, has an unforgettable role in Indian cricket history

4 T20Is and 4 wickets. Look at Joginder Sharma's T20 international career statistics and on first glance, they would suggest to you that he was perhaps just another Indian bowler conveniently forgotten now. But numbers, as they say, do not always tell you the story.

For the few who have watched the inaugural edition of the ICC World T20 in 2007, Joginder Sharma will always be a part of their fond cricketing memory. In the last over of that match, when a rampaging Misbah-ul-Haq seemed determined to take Pakistan to glory, MS Dhoni did the unthinkable thing. He threw the ball to Joginder Sharma instead of Harbhajan Singh.

And the rest, as they say, is history. That infamous scoop brought about Misbah's downfall and Joginder Sharma became a momentary overnight hero. It also signified the birth of Dhoni's era as one of the best Indian captains ever.

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