It ain’t a joke to make it to the national cricket squad, even if some get lucky there is no guarantee of longevity. Over the years, we have seen several Indian cricketers with immense potential announcing their cricketing arrivals in style only to languish in the corridors of uncertainty later on. However, some of them were fortunate enough to don India colours whereas others were not. Hence, in this segment we will focus on those players who promised a lot at the outset but delivered precious little in the end, they were either victims of favouritism, indiscipline, circumstances or megalomania.
In the ’80s, a Kerala-born Delhi-ite burst onto the Indian domestic cricket like a tornado. The right-handed batsman was in prolific form while playing for the Delhi team from 1983-89 seasons, where he averaged almost 70. However, apart from being a stand-by during the India-Sri Lanka 1985 series, Krishnan Bhaskar Pillai has never donned a Team India jersey. He has even represented the Rest Of India once against Mumbai, where he scored a century in the second innings and still could not make it to the playing XI of the Indian cricket team, blame it on luck or nepotism. “There were selectors from Delhi who had other favourite players whom they preferred and in the process, I was never considered. Perhaps things may have been different if I had played for Karnataka or Tamil Nadu,” the veteran Delhi player opined while speaking to Deccan Herald.
Domestically, this Mumbai southpaw was creating waves as a batter more talented than, yes, you heard it right, Sachin Tendulkar prior to making his debut for India. He lived up to the top billing for a while by amassing a Bradmanesque batting average of 99.75, scoring back to back double centuries against England and Zimbabwe in 1993. However, the problem started when success reached his head and Kambli began to make news for all the wrong reasons such as lack of work ethic, discipline etc. Resultantly, a vibrant career ended in an anti-climactic fashion and faded out of the memories of selectors by 2000. From 17 Tests and 104 ODIs, Kambli has scored 1084 and 2447 runs respectively and was also part of the playing XI of the 1996 ODI World Cup.
Cricketers from Kerala were a rare species in Indian cricket, but in mid-2000 a bowler with an awkwardly aggressive attitude from the “God’s Own Country” started making several heads turn in the cricketing circles. From Imran Khan to Allan Donald everyone was surprised by the demeanour that was quite unusual for an Indian bowler. S Sreesanth’s best came in 2006 at Johannesburg in South Africa, when he took five wickets to blow away Proteas for a paltry 84, helping India register their first Test victory in the country.
Unfortunately, as he took the upward stairs, Sreesanth gradually began to attract infamy for his run-ins with opposition players as well as his Indian counterparts and this started to affect his bowling badly. As a result, the then captain MS Dhoni slowly shifted his focus away from the temperamental bowler, triggering the beginning of the end of the latter’s cricketing journey. The biggest setback for the Kerala pacer came in the form of the match-fixing allegation in the 2013 IPL edition, which mercilessly brought the eventful career to a grinding halt.
A decade back when fast bowlers were like an unknown commodity in Indian cricket, a quickie named Munaf Patel rose on the Indian horizon who could consistently bowl in the range of 150 KMPH. After catching the attention of Kiran More in 2003, he was packed off to the MRF Pace Academy in Chennai to train under the legendary Oz Dennis Lillie. Considered the fastest of that time, he was being regularly chased by several teams such as Baroda, Gujarat and Mumbai, but he chose the business capital of India due to the insistence of Sachin Tendulkar.
After impressing all and sundry in his 2006 debut series in England his fitness started to desert him gradually, which adversely impacted his bowling performance later on. Eventually, he compromised on his pace and turned into a line and length bowler, which proved to be a grave mistake with regard to his career. So, Munaf started losing the sting in his bowling and got sidelined from the team after the 2011 World Cup. In November 2018, he announced his retirement from all forms of cricket.
Comparison with Virat Kohli was obvious when the Delhi teenager led the India u-19 team to ultimate glory in the 2012 Junior World Cup. However, the story turned out to be the exact opposite of that of his slightly elder counterpart. Despite having the right skill set to succeed at the top level, he could never make it to the Indian team, thanks to his erratic form and skirmishes with the DDCA officials.
2,690 runs from 48 first-class matches hardly justify the talent at his disposal and his average returns in the IPL while playing for erstwhile Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians did not help his cause as well. After a while, he lost his place even in his domestic team, Delhi, which prompted him to move to Uttarakhand but to no avail. Finally, when he could not take the snub anymore, he retired from Indian domestic cricket at the young age of 28 and moved to the US to play in the T-20 league over there. Precisely, Chand’s tragedy is as sublime as that of Brutus in the Shakespearean Julius Caesar.