Kambli's case not an isolated one in Indian cricket

Vinod Kambli, the maverick former India batsman and Sachin Tendulkar's childhood friend, has been in the news of late for all the wrong reasons.

updated: July 19, 2009 08:59 IST
  • Total Shares


Vinod Kambli, the maverick former India batsman and Sachin Tendulkar's childhood friend, has been in the news of late for all the wrong reasons. Ever the flashy person, Kambli has stirred the hornet's nest by telling a TV reality show that champion batsman Tendulkar had not done enough to prevent him from self-destructing in his prime.

The flamboyant cricketer, however, denied to reporters assembled at a five star hotel in the Mumbai suburbs on July 14 for the official launch of the 2011 Cricket World Cup logo that he had accused Tendulkar of not helping him enough.

But Kambli has been found on sticky wicket now following the airing of a brief video footage of the programme in which he says "I think, yes" when the anchor of the show asks him whether Tendulkar could have done more to save him from his self-destructive habits.

Kambli's ramblings could be attributed to self-appraisal that he did not live up to the promise shown at the Test level when he struck back-to-back double hundreds early in his career before allowing it to plummet due to his undisciplined personal habits.

Kambli had two double tons and two other hundreds to his name in his first seven Test matches before the short-pitched bowling at his ribs and throat by the West Indian quicks led by Courtney Walsh and Kenny Benjamin on the 1994-95 visit to India exposed the left-handed stylist.

He played in only one more Test rubber, against New Zealand at home in October-November 1995, but could not do anything significant, and went out of reckoning for the subsequent visit to England in 1996 when the duo of Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid made dazzling debuts.

To Kambli's added misfortune, the arrival of the wristy VVS Laxman, had made the middle order into a tightly packed compartment, despite averaging 54-plus in 17 Tests, with four hundreds and three half tons in it.

Kambli's captains at that point of time were Mohammed Azharuddin and Tendulkar and, though he continued to be in and out of the ODI squad, he was never recalled into the Test batting line-up after November 1995.

The fact that Kambli made only three overseas Test visits - to Sri Lanka and New Zealand in 1993-94, under Azhar, and to Lanka again in 1997-98 when Tendulkar was captain - is somewhat baffling.

Kambli was neither the first Indian cricketer to go down the wrong path after seeing the goodies too early in his cricket career, nor would he be the last unless the right counselling is given to the youngsters in these days of the cash-rich Indian Premier League.

There were the examples of talented spin twins of Maninder Singh and Laxman Sivaramakrishnan as well as wicket keeper Sadanand Vishwanath who shone like shooting stars before sinking quickly into cricketing oblivion in the 1980s.

Siva is a respected TV commentator now while Maninder does his bit as an expert on private TV channels after trying his luck at umpiring along with Vishwanath.

All these players had the cricket world at their feet and chose to self-destruct.

In contrast, there were at least two batsmen who made splendid impressions at the start of their Test careers only to be ignored totally later for reasons not explained so far.

Incidentally both these batsmen - Madhav Apte and Deepak Shodhan - were members of the Indian team on its maiden visit to the Caribbean under Vijay Hazare and never played a Test after the squad's return.

Coincidentally, both batsmen also made their debut against Pakistan in 1952-53 at home.

Apte averaged close to 50 in seven Tests, including five in the West Indies as opener in the 1952 tour under Vijay Hazare, and inexplicably never played again for India.

An industrialist, Apte used to play for the Cricket Club of India till well into his sixties in the well-known Kanga League cricket, held annually during the Mumbai monsoon weather.

As opener, Apte scored three half centuries and an unbeaten ton (163 not out), during India's maiden visit to the Caribbean where he tallied 460 runs at an average of 51-plus, to be second in the Test averages behind Polly Umrigar. But incomprehensibly, he was never picked to play for the country again.

So was the case with Shodhan, a left-handed batsman from Gujarat who made a century on debut against arch-rivals Pakistan during that country's first visit to India in 1952-53, batting at number eight.

Shodhan scored 45 and 11 in the first Test of India's subsequent series in the West Indies, at Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.

After not being picked for the next three Tests, he was included in the last Test of the series, scoring 15 not out in the second innings batting at number 10. Like Apte, he too was ignored after the team's return.

Incidentally, that squad to the West Indies was praised for its fine fielding, an unheard of things in those days.

In an interview some years ago, Shodhan, now 80, had hinted that a top player in the team was against him. "Though I scored a ton on my debut, I could play only three Tests and that's because of politics," he had told the interviewer.

"There were some cricketers who did not want me in the side and particularly one cricketer, a great cricketer indeed, had spoiled my cricketing career," Shodhan had said.

But those were the days when Indian cricket was full of intrigues and players were openly accused of deliberately dropping catches in Tests off bowlers who they did not like.

It was also the era when, amazingly, four captains led India in a five-Test series. That unprecedented episode happened at home against the mighty West Indies side in the late 1950s.

Ghulam Ahmed, the captain appointed for the five-Test rubber, withdrew on the eve of the 1958-59 series opener to leave Umrigar to carry the mantle.

Ahmed took over from Umrigar and led in the next two Tests but, after the team suffered heavy defeats, retired from the game.

The selectors then named Umrigar as the captain who, however, resigned on the eve of the fourth Test, dissatisfied with the selection of a player.

Vinoo Mankad led in that match and in the fifth Test Hemu Adhikari was handed the captain's job to make Indian cricket the laughing stock in the world's eyes.

Kambli's turn came much later and he went out of the reckoning partly because of his own making, partly because of the packed middle order and partly because of the selectorial whims and fancies.