| Padmakar Shivalkar (left) and Rajinder Goel at a city hotel Friday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: He plied his trade silently, without much recognition despite mesmerising the batsmen with his left-arm spin. Until one Sunil Gavaskar acknowledged Padmakar Shivalkar’s versatility in Idols in the early 80s.
That compliment still remains the unassuming Shivalkar’s biggest asset and has almost made up for his missing out on Test cricket. “Sunny put me among the best in the world. This identity more than compensated my not playing Test cricket,” Shivalkar, commonly known as Paddy, told The Telegraph Friday.
Shivalkar, who featured in one unofficial Test versus Sri Lanka in 1973-74, failed to make the grade in Tests. Having been born in the golden era of Indian spin has been cited as the sole reason for his omission and he has no regrets.
“I will blame it on my luck. Every season I used to think that the opportunity would come about but nothing finally happened. But now it’s all a thing of the past and I’m living entirely on the present,” said Shivalkar.
The closest he came to making it was when he was included in the squad for the series against the West Indies at home in 1974-75 but…
The enormously gifted Bombay left-armer finished with 361 Ranji Trophy wickets in 76 matches (589 wickets in first class cricket) in a career spanning 27 years.
Among the batsmen during his time, he considers Vijay Manjrekar, Madhav Mantri, Gavaskar and Tiger Pataudi to be the best against spin. “There was very little difference between them,” he said, refusing to pick any one as the best.
Does he consider himself lucky at not having to bowl to Gavaskar in domestic cricket' “I did bowl to him often when playing local cricket in Mumbai,” he revealed, adding getting through his defence was almost impossible. “Bowling against batsmen who defend well is difficult. An attacking bat always gives you that extra bit of an edge.”
Shivalkar, also noted for his singing talent, was full of praise for Harbhajan Singh. “He has progressed very well over the years. Mark my words, he has the potential to excel further.”
Why this paucity of left-arm spinners now' “Maybe not all are getting the opportunity. And the ones who get the chance aren’t performing. Talent is there, it has to be spotted.” He blames one-dayers for the decline. “You should always bowl with confidence — flight the ball even in one-dayers. I wouldn’t say that one-dayers have spoiled Test cricket but it certainly has had an effect.”
Shivalkar feels that Shane Warne is the best in business but Harbhajan and Muttiah Muralidharan are “more mature for one-dayers”. “In any case the difference between Harbhajan and Murali is very little,” he signed off.