Ra­jin­der Goel, one of the best never to play for In­dia

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HTBUSINESS - N Anan­tha­narayanan anan­tha.narayanan@htlive.com

NEWDELHI: For­mer left-arm spin leg­end Ra­jin­der Goel, whose record Ranji Tro­phy wicket haul of 637 scalps still stands, passed away on Sun­day, aged 77. Goel, who played for Haryana, Pun­jab and Delhi, was a tow­er­ing pres­ence in do­mes­tic cricket dur­ing a 25-year first-class ca­reer that be­gan in 1958-59 and ex­tended un­til 1984-85, when he was 42. Goel fin­ished with 750 first-class wick­ets.

Goel and con­tem­po­rary left-arm spin­ner, Pad­makar Shivalkar of Mum­bai, dom­i­nated the do­mes­tic cir­cuit for three decades. They were un­lucky their ca­reers ran par­al­lel to that of Bis­han Singh Bedi, the left-arm spin­ner who formed the fa­mous quar­tet with offies Era­palli Prasanna and S Venkatarag­ha­van, and legspin­ner Bhag­wat Chan­drasekhar. Goel him­self ac­knowl­edged that with a philo­soph­i­cal re­frain “yeh sab kismet ka khel hai” (this is all fate play­ing its hand).

Al­though Goel and Shivalkar were two of the finest spin­ners pro­duced by In­dia never to play for the coun­try, their longevity and sus­tained suc­cess at­tested to their class. Shivalkar, who is 80, took 589 first-class wick­ets in a ca­reer from 1961-62 to 1987-88.

Goel’s do­mes­tic pop­u­lar­ity was even ac­knowl­edged by a da­coit. Bukha Singh Ya­dav, who was serv­ing his term in a Gwalior jail, wrote a let­ter to the spin­ner, con­grat­u­lat­ing him for tak­ing 600 Ranji wick­ets. While Goel’s av­er­age of 18.58 shows how miserly he was as a spin­ner and the de­fen­sive ap­proach of bats­men of his time, his level of suc­cess is re­flected in his 59 fivewicket in­nings hauls and 18 10-wicket match hauls in first-class cricket.

Born in United Pun­jab’s Nar­wana town in 1942, Goel played his first Ranji game for South Pun­jab in 1958-59. For Delhi, Goel bowled along­side Bedi, their ac­tion con­trast­ing each other’s with the for­mer hailed for his econ­omy of move­ment and ac­cu­racy and the lat­ter for his ac­tion de­scribed as poetry in mo­tion. Goel though found his best bowl­ing rhythm af­ter mov­ing to Haryana. “There were so many spin­ners but only one left-armer could play for In­dia and Bis­han Bedi was the man,” he told es­p­n­cricinfo in a 2001 in­ter­view.

Goel came the clos­est to play­ing a Test when he was called up, in the ab­sence of Bedi, against Clive Lloyd’s West Indies at Ban­ga­lore in Novem­ber, 1974. Fa­mous for Viv Richards’ de­but Test, Goel though was not in­cluded in the 11. “I was called… when I was in form and bowl­ing very well. (Bedi) was re­moved from the team for some rea­son. I was sure I would play but the evening be­fore the Test when the team was an­nounced, my name was miss­ing,” he said. Be­fore the 1979-80 Test se­ries against Kim Hughes’ Aus­tralia, Goel took nine wick­ets in a side-game against the vis­i­tors, in­clud­ing six in the first in­nings, but an In­dia break still eluded him.


Ra­jin­der Goel.

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