March 2, 2017 12:05:48 am
Born in the wrong place and at the wrong time. In Indian cricket, there isn’t a better context to slip in this well-worn adage than when the subjects of the discussion are Rajinder Goel and Padmakar Shivalkar. Both were copybook, artful left-arm spinners who happened to ply the same trade in the “spin boom” era of Indian cricket. They were consigned to domestic chores for years while the more vaunted quartet of Bishan Singh Bedi, B.S. Chandrasekhar, E.A.S. Prasanna and Srinivasa Venkataraghavan, were weaving deception at home and abroad.
Whether Goel and Shivalkar — both of them bestowed, belatedly, with lifetime achievement awards by the Indian cricket board this week — were better than the quartet is a question bound to debates, perceptions and conjectures. But the unavoidable truth is how much ever good they were, they never got to play for their country, despite being held in high regard by peers. Several times have Bedi himself acknowledged that the duo were as good as him, but were grossly unlucky. Goel and Shivalkar are among Sunil Gavaskar’s chosen 31 greats in his book, The Idols. A cruel happenstance of time, like several Caribbean fast bowlers or Australian batsmen of their respective golden eras would accord.
However, unlike the West Indian pacemen and Australian batsmen, who had the lucrative solace of playing county cricket, Shivalkar and Goel kept toiling perpetually on Indian dustbowls at a time when Ranji Trophy was more about honour and pride than prize-money. The match fee in their playing days — 1970s and1980s — was Rs 150 per day and the mode of transport, bus and train. If they felt cussed and neglected at times, then they were quick to put negative thoughts behind and keep playing for the love of their art. “An addiction,” as Goel once said. The BCCI’s gesture might have come late, but better late than never.
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