In early January this year when Mumbai was facing the heat for early losses in their first few Ranji Trophy opening games, Hiken Shah left a message on my facebook account. He wrote, “I would really appreciate if you right some small story on me regarding not taking me in ranji trophy (Sic).”
He had failed in the last two Ranji games and scores of 26 & 20 had ensured Hiken would have to pave the way for others. Failures were nothing new for the 30-year-old left-handed batsman. He’d taken the longest routes to being selected and then to frequent comebacks always and Hiken wasn’t exactly someone who Mumbai’s establishment thought of as one with a big future.
He remained a quiet workhorse on the local maidaans instead. His team mates practiced at MCA-BKC ground in the suburbs but Hiken preferred the Cross Maidan in South Mumbai. At the time when he was trying to get entry into the Mumbai Ranji team, Hiken had stiff competition from the likes of Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Abhishek Nayar.
The presence of so called future stars in the Mumbai side meant Hiken had to wait longer than most. There were opportunities but never a long run. He made his debut in 2007, it was a year when Ajinkya Rahane too got his Mumbai cap. He played three games in his debut season followed by two, three, four and five first-class games in subsequent years. Under the MBA degree holder, the Mumbai University clinched the all-India trophy after a gap of two decades.
An aggregate of 2160 runs from 37 first class games at an average of 42.35 was not unimpressive for someone with a staid, undistinguished batting style – the necessary foil for the likes of Rahane and Sharma; a stay-at-home parent as against the steep office ladder-climbers.
But his pluck and grit would shine through in his second stint when he would score three hundreds in as many matches turning into Mumbai’s rescue-man of the 2012 season.
Hiken had moved to J&K for the 2009 season earlier after being in and out of the Mumbai side – dropped finally in December of 2008.
“He was the workhorse and never shy of doing hard-work. Even inside the dressing room, he remained quiet and if he was dropped from the playing eleven, he took it sportingly,” recalls former Mumbai coach Sulkashan Kulkarni.
Like many on the Mumbai circuit, Kulkarni is also surprised after Hiken’s suspension from the BCCI. Many wonder why he would get mixed up in such an act especially after Mumbai had witnessed Ankeet Chavan being found guilty of spot-fixing.
“He was captaincy material and I told MCA in 2012 that we should consider Hiken for the top job because in two invitational tournaments he had done exceptionally well. I don’t know what he’s done but I know him for the past ten years, he has been a simple and obedient player,” Kulkarni points out.
Kulkarni further recalls how he had argued Hiken’s case for captaincy because his three hundreds in Karnataka Cricket Association’s invitational shield were followed by one hundred in Vidarbha Cricket Association’s tournament which had enhanced his captaincy chances. In 2012-13 season, Hiken would score 773 runs in the Ranji Trophy which had the said three consecutive hundreds.
PV Shetty, who is Mumbai Cricket Association joint-secretary and also owner of Payyade Sports Club where Hiken played for the past few years says the news has not sunk in still.
“I can’t believe it, he is sincere boy and hardworking one. He was too focussed on his game. Never a single time that he got angry or did anything which needed to be punished. I hope he comes out clean because we all know him that he will never do such kind of thing,” Shetty says.