| Kolkata |
Updated: June 17, 2020 8:04:52 pm
‘Let me tell you a secret / Put it in your heart and keep it’… George Michael had urged the world to ‘Listen without Prejudice’. Vinod Kambli, at the peak of his powers, had wowed us sufficient to look at his batting with out prejudice.
The analogy between the departed English singer-songwriter and the former India middle-order batsman will not be misplaced. “George Michael is my all-time favourite, as also Kishore da (Kumar),” Kambli’s voice nonetheless revs up on the different aspect of the cellphone. He returns to his teenagers, when, together with Sachin Tendulkar, he had stitched a 664-run partnership, enjoying for Shardashram Vidyamandir towards St Xavier’s High School in a Harris Shield semifinal. “Throughout the partnership, between overs, I was humming George Michael’s song,” Kambli recounts.
That was February 1988. Tendulkar made his India debut a yr later. Kambli needed to wait a bit longer however when in early 1993 he finally bought into the Test aspect, the left-hander made a touch by way of the flight of stairs to achieve the top. His stay there was short-lived however that’s a special story.
Kambli’s Test common towards England is 105.66. A 224 at Wankhede Stadium in his debut sequence contributed immensely to it. Unfortunately, he by no means performed towards England after that sequence. India nonetheless weren’t the recreation’s superpower and cricket’s previous superpower, England, most popular to take care of a tenuous hyperlink to the Orient, Test series-wise. More importantly, Kambli wasn’t constant sufficient to be a part of the Test squad that toured the Blighty in 1996 – a sequence that gave Indian cricket Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid.
His 224 against England at Wankhede was somewhat path-breaking, for the batsman, a callow 21-year-old then, had proven the ‘temerity’ to defy the Bombay college of batting and nonetheless rating a double hundred. His quick predecessors at No. 3, Dilip Vengsarkar and Sanjay Manjrekar, had been minimize from the conventional material – carrying down the bowlers and scoring runs, enjoying alongside the carpet. Kambli’s excessive backlift wasn’t a purist’s delight. His propensity to hit the ball in the air, if the ball was there to be hit aerially, was a serious departure from the Bombay batting copybook.
But Ajit Wadekar, then India coach, didn’t thoughts it regardless of being a Bombay maidan thoroughbred himself. That was necessary. “He was like my father, although I called him Jithia, as his former India teammates used to call him. He gave me the freedom to express. Azhar also. That innings on my home ground had a build-up over the previous two Tests,” Kambli instructed The Indian Express.
In reality, it had been a sluggish however regular build-up. “The first Test in Calcutta, I got out for a very low score in the first innings but I and Sachin remained not out in the second innings. I carried the confidence of being not out to the second Test, on a very good pitch at Chepauk. They (England) had Phil DeFreitas, Devon Malcolm and Chris Lewis (as fast bowlers) and the ball was travelling. Scoring runs on that track was a challenge. I went to bat at No. 3, got a half-century (59), but I was very disappointed with myself, more so because I got out leg-before to a spinner. And then the third Test came. I went to bat, saw the entire situation and started playing my natural game. It was a turning track but I just played my shots. I went with the flow.”
The irreverence of youth had a rush of blood as properly. England wasted their alternatives. On 57, Kambli mistimed a John Emburey supply, however DeFreitas at long-off dropped a sitter. The younger batsman, although, didn’t get slowed down. He confirmed the maturity of placing the earlier ball behind him and deal with the subsequent. His grooming underneath Ramakant Achrekar helped.
“(From the very beginning) I was a stroke-player who liked to play his shots. Achrekar sir saw something in me and he always encouraged me to play my natural game. His words to me used to be like, ‘if you don’t try to dominate the bowler, the bowler will get you out; whether it’s a fast bowler or a spinner. Never let the bowlers dominate you’. Those were the golden words that I carried to Test cricket also.”
England had despatched a robust squad for the 1992-93 sequence. Graham Gooch, Alec Stewart, Mike Atherton, Robin Smith, Mike Gatting and Graeme Hick had been their top six batsmen. And on a turning Wankhede pitch, they’d the skilled Emburey and Phil Tufnell’s guile. After the reprieve, Kambli reached his maiden Test hundred virtually unhindered, however he had an inclination to shuffle throughout the stumps and in the direction of the latter half of his innings was doing it a bit of an excessive amount of. From the commentary field, the grasp detected it.
“Sunil Gavaskar was my idol, as also Sachin’s. I was batting on 179 overnight. He was doing commentary. After the day’s play he came down and told me, ‘Vinod, your leg stump is opening up’. The next morning, I corrected it and went on to score the double century. After the innings, he came to me and gave me his sunglasses.”
Wankhede was full to witness the home boy’s double century. And Kambli was nearing 236 – the highest particular person rating by an Indian batsman then; by Gavaskar towards the West Indies. Kambli departed 12 runs shy of the goal. Any regrets?
“None at all. To start with, I wasn’t even aware of the record when I was batting. And at the end of the day, the legend, my idol, himself congratulated me. Your first double century in front of your home fans, what more you can ask for.” For the file, Kambli had a 194-run partnership with Tendulkar for the third wicket.
On-field swearing and ugly send-offs weren’t en vogue these days. But the fielding aspect all the time gave the batters some lip, and Kambli had been a greenhorn, chopping his tooth in top-level cricket towards some very skilled gamers. Did the Poms attempt to get underneath his pores and skin throughout the innings?
“Sunil Gavaskar told me, ‘if they try to get to you, ignore them and concentrate on your batting’. But they didn’t say anything. Growing up, I have seen Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting bat. I admired them. They were a wonderful side. Hick scored a magnificent century in that game. We dominated the entire series but they never did anything that wasn’t cricket.”
The Bombay Test was performed from February 19-23, 1993. When Zimbabwe got here subsequent month for a one-off Test in Delhi, Kambli hit a strokeful 227, sustaining a strike charge north of 75. A number of months down the line, he went to Sri Lanka and scored two extra Test a whole lot. For these six-odd months, the left-hander from Kanjurmarg was just about the identify of the recreation in the nation. But the magic progressively pale away.
“I made nine comebacks. I loved the game so much,” Kambli says. He even cracks a joke, “If I were to start my career now, the only thing I would have done differently was to bat right-handed.” But why did a batsman of his expertise underachieve? “I am (still) trying to find the answer.”
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