Solkar passes away - End to close-in fielding genius

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By (AGENCIES) in Mumbai
  • Published 27.06.05

Mumbai: Former Test all-rounder Eknath Solkar, well known for his extraordinary fielding and close-in catching ability, died here Sunday following a cardiac arrest.

He was 57 and is survived by wife, a son and a daughter.

A severe diabetic, he was lately suffering from bronchitis-induced respiratory problems.Mumbai Cricket Association treasurer Ratnakar Shetty said he had met Solkar around 11.30am, to invite him to a prize distribution. He said the player appeared weak.

He suffered a heart attack later and despite best efforts died on the way to the hospital, Shetty said.

Born on march 18, 1948 to the groundsman of one of Mumbai’s cricket nurseries, the P. J. Hindu Gymkhana, Solkar rose to become an integral member of the Indian squad in the 1969-70 season after making his debut against the Bill Lawry-led Australia series at home.

That was the season in which the then Indian selection committee chairman Vijay Merchant decided to infuse fresh blood into the Indian team and Solkar was among the beneficiaries along with Gundappa Viswanath, Ashok Mankad, Mohinder Amaranth, Ashok Gandotra and Ambar Roy.

The left-handed Solkar, whose career extended till 1976-77, played in 27 Tests, amassing 1,068 runs in 48 innings, mostly by batting lower down the order, averaging 25.42. His only century, though, came when he was moved up to the opening slot as a stop-gap arrangement. It was courageous, though slow, knock of 102 against Clive Lloyd’s touring West Indians at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium in 1974-75. He also had six half centuries.

Solkar bagged 18 wickets with his mix of slow left arm medium pace and spin, giving away 1,070 runs at a costly 59.44 per wicket. More memorably, he took 53 catches, mostly blinders and acrobatic ones, standing at short leg to the famed spin quartet of Bishan Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Srinivas Venkatraghavan.

In his debit series, he took ten catches, in five matches, making an Indian record of sorts. In the 1972-73 series versus England, also at home, he improved that to 12 catches. It stood the test of time till, in the 2004-05 series versus Australia, Rahul Dravid took 13 catches in four matches to set a new mark.

Indebted to Solkar’s agility will be India’s famed spin quartet of the time.

Solkar earned plaudits by dismissing the great Geoff Boycott in three successive innings when India toured England in 1971 and created history. Solkar also represented India in the inaugural edition of the World Cup in 1975.