Eknath Solkarís death is a great loss for Indian cricket, and with his sad demise we have lost the best talent in close-in fielding. Itís a tragedy that he died without being roped in to train our Test cricketers (now playing for India). His talent was never appreciated and he passed away while in a financial crisis.
Eknath was the best close-in fielder I have ever seen. I watched him field and dive forward like a swimmer even in his younger days at the B J Hindu Gymkhana in Bombay where the conditions were not conducive for diving. Later on, he proved to be a fearless allrounder and gave us spinners the opportunity to have a go at the batsmen by merely flighting the ball.
For bowlers like Bishan (Bedi) and me, his presence at the close meant additional pressure on the batsmen. Every batsman had to play with extra care as Eknath would be waiting to scoop up the ball. His best catch was of Alan Knott at the forward short-leg off Venkat at The Oval during that historic win (in 1971).
I donít remember him taking evasive action at all nor for that matter getting hit by a batsman. He was not afraid of fielding close to the batsmen because he had this extraordinary anticipation of catches at the forward short-leg position and could sense when a batsman even offered a half chance that he could turn into a catch.
I once asked him about protective gear and he said he wore the box only because he saw others use it. This is in contrast with the present-day cricketers who wear every protective gear but continue to duck when they see a batsman play the sweep shot.
As an allrounder, he was ready to open the bowling and bowl spin or bat at any number. He was a source of trouble for Geoffrey Boycott and Rodney Marsh with his left-arm bowling. As a batsman he got a hundred against Clive Lloydís team in the Bombay Test in 1974-75.
Off the field, he was a teammate full of confidence and one who looked out for opportunities. He had a communication problem in that he could speak fluent Hindi and Marathi but only some English. He used to make an effort to talk to us in English and make known his opinion on and off the field.
We were close friends and our families kept in touch. We used to visit Solkar and his wife whenever we went to Mumbai. It is unfortunate that we let him pass away without taking his services to improve our fielding.