I and Rajinder Goel shared the same philosophy – jo mil gaya usi ko muqaddar samajh liya. I am a big Dev saab (Anand) and (Mohammed) Rafi saab fan. I don’t know if Rajinder also liked Dev saab, but the line from Hum Dono (Mein zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya) connected us.
We were left-arm spinners, contemporaries and both of us missed the bus in terms of playing for India. We should have played for India but we weren’t picked. Those who were in charge of Indian cricket then would be able to tell you why we weren’t picked. Between us, we had over 1,300 (1,339) first-class wickets, but were considered to be not good enough. Later the BCCI gave us the Lifetime Achievement Award and acknowledged our contribution to Indian cricket and that was a memorable moment.
We played as opponents in the Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy. We had a healthy rivalry. But we had huge mutual respect as well. In fact, I thought of him as god-send, such was my respect for him. As a bowler he was unique. He carried an x-factor which nobody had and his performance attested that. I cannot explain that (special touch in his bowling) to you. Those who have watched him or played with or against him knew the special aspect he carried. He was also a fantastic human being.
Rajinder bowled flatter but varied his flight. His style was different. Spinners used flight and loop to tease the batsmen those days. He teased the batters all right, but in a different way. Because of his flatter trajectory, he didn’t give the batsman time to step down the wicket and drive. He was very accurate and pinned them down on the back foot. Top batsmen, masters against spin, struggled to play him. Over the past few decades we have seen the proliferation of flatter trajectory spinners, thanks to limited-overs cricket. But Rajinder was different. He wasn’t a bits and pieces spinner. He varied his pace so well. What he had was special, nobody could probably match that. I think he was a better bowler than me. He was indeed a strong contender to play for India.
Despite being a flatter trajectory spinner, he was never a bad wicket spinner. He was an all-weather bowler, because he read the batsmen well and was adept at changing his tactics according to conditions.
Indian cricket had some great spinners during our time. As far as left-arm spin was concerned, Bishan Bedi was an automatic pick for the Indian team. Bishan was a great bowler, but I don’t know what prevented the authorities to play two left-arm spinners in the XI. (Erapalli) Prasanna and (Srinivas) Venkataraghavan played together. So if two off-spinners could play, why not two left-arm spinners? But I don’t want to go back to what had happened in the past. Let that be done and dusted.
The news of Rajinder’s passing is a huge shock to me. He was a champion cricketer.
(Padmakar Shivalkar is a former Bombay left-arm spinner; played 124 first-class matches and took 589 wickets at 19.69. He spoke to Shamik Chakrabarty)
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