Calcutta: He might have walked into the Test XI of any other country, but Rajinder Goel had to stay content with first class cricket because his era coincided with that of Bishan Singh Bedi’s.
The left-arm spinner, who represented Northern Punjab, Delhi and Haryana in a Ranji Trophy career spanning over 27 years, took 640 wickets in 127 matches at 17.14 — a record that is likely to stand for some time yet.
“The one-day variety has changed cricket for good. From a spinner’s point of view, the loop has disappeared. The flight has lost variation. That’s why we are not producing quality spinners,” Goel told The Telegraph Friday.
“Spin bowling demands a combination of talent and practice. The other point is temperament, which has taken a serious beating with the advent and popularity of one-day cricket.”
Goel thinks the responsibility of unearthing good spinners lies with the Board. “Not that it did anything of note all these years. But it’s better late than never,” he said about Friday’s BCCI-convened meeting of spinners.
“We, the former players, are ready to help. But the initiative must come from the BCCI. It’s good that it is trying to involve former players now. We old-timers are not after money. We’ll do everything possible if the basic requirements are taken care of.”
Goel welcomes the new Ranji Trophy format. “The earlier one was too predictable. Same opponents, same venues and playing in almost the same conditions every year. This format offers a lot of variety. It promises tougher competition.”
He is not too sure about the new Duleep Trophy format, though. “I have heard that players are complaining of lack of motivation and team spirit. Maybe, this one needs a rethink,” Goel opined.
Among his peers, Goel picked Gundappa Viswanath and Ramesh Saxena as the most difficult of batsmen to bowl to, because they “always looked to attack.”
Goel, who does duty as Match Referee in first class matches these days, doesn’t regret missing out on the India cap, despite possessing the talent — as acknowledged by Sunil Gavaskar.
“I came very close in the 1974-75 Bangalore Test against Clive Lloyd’s West Indies with Bishan out on disciplinary grounds. Till the 11th hour I knew I was playing and was even instructed on how to bowl to Greenidge, Richards and Co.
“As it would happen, I was dropped. Then, I took nine wickets in a match for North Zone against Kim Hughes’ Australia. Pakistan toured India weeks later, and I found myself out of the North Zone team!
“It felt bad at that time. But now these incidents are far too old to pain me. They don’t matter anymore,” added the highest wicket-taker in the history of Ranji Trophy.