Interview with Hrishikesh Kanitkar, former India and Maharashtra batsman

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(Excerpts from an interview taken in 2004)

Hrishikesh Kanitkar probably doesn’t need any introduction to a genuine cricket follower. However for the record, here is a man who was the Captain of the Maharashtra Ranji team and has also played a bit of international cricket for India.

Hrishikesh Kanitkar Photo

Hrishikesh Kanitkar

Hrishikesh Kanitkar was a wonderful left handed middle order batsman in his own rights. He was a more than a useful off spinner with wicket taking deliveries like the floater in his repertoire. Hrishikesh Kanitkar has led India A and other important teams on quite a number of occasions. A short career at the International level with 34 ODIs and 2 Tests has seen quiet a number of highs including a crucial boundary that won India the Independence Cup in Dhaka, 1998. B.V.Swagath got an opportunity to meet Kanitkar to bring out this exclusive :

Hrishikesh, you made your debut against Sri Lanka at Indore in 1997, which was abandoned after 3 overs due to poor pitch conditions. So what exactly was the pitch like?

Yeah, it was a very dry pitch and I think a lot has been said about it. The ball when landed on the wicket, it was exploding and the bounce was totally unpredictable. So the umpires and the players decided to stop the Match.

Talk us through your entry to cricket. Who was your Role Model?

I started my cricket since my childhood like any other kid. My dad played Test Cricket for India, so we always had the cricket atmosphere at home. While growing up, I looked upto Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and I used to like David Gower and Vivian Richards from the other countries. Later on, I admired Steve Waugh a lot and I thought he was a very very good batsman. Among the Indians, Sachin and Rahul have been great inspirations, but I think basically you look upto many people rather than one individual. I have read Mohammad Ali’s autobiography and I got a lot to learn from it about his preparation and the way he went about things. So I can’t pin point one role model but I have learnt many things from many people.

Above photo: Hrishikesh Kanitkar in 1999

What about off-spin? Where did you pick that from?

That was something I just did. I didn’t have a role model in the off-spin department. I just liked bowling off-spin so I used to bowl.

Take the name of Hrishikesh Kanitkar, the first thing that comes to our mind is you hitting a four of Saqlain Mushtaq when India required 3 runs of 2 balls in the Independence Cup Final against Pakistan at Dhaka in 1998. Talk us through that great moment.

I’ve talked about this many times, so I will keep it short (smiles). Srinath was batting along with me on the other end. He told me whatever happens, “just don’t miss the ball”. Srinath asked me not to miss the ball on any cause. So the only plan was to watch the ball and make a good connection with the bat. I wasn’t looking for a boundary or six or anything like that. I was just telling myself to watch the ball and the rest is history.

We have seen cricketers like you, Hemang Badani, Vijay Bharadwaj, Rohan Gavaskar who have been prolific at the domestic level but haven’t been able to establish themselves in the Indian Team. Is it because all of you had to come and bat at a crucial juncture of the innings with very few overs left or is it anything else?

Yes, I can talk about myself and say that about 95% of the One Day Matches that I have played, I have batted at no.7, if not no.8. At that point the required run rate is very high, or you require hardly few runs to win the match. So you either get out trying to score, or you are 5 or 6 runs not out. I think that wasn’t an ideal place to bat for me. I feel that I never got a decent chance at the top of the order, probably no.3, 4 or 5. About the Test Matches, I played 2 Tests in Australia and I think I was batting very well. The First Test at Melbourne in which I played, Sachin got a hundred and I was the 2nd highest scorer with 45. The Second Test I hung in for a long time in both the innings, but managed to get just 15 or 17 runs in both the Innings. I thought it was a good beginning to my career, but when I came back I was dropped and was given no reason. I think as far as my performance in Tests is considered, I was unlucky not to get another chance. I was a bit confident after the Australian tour and I was looking forward to the South African series. I also got a 132* in a side game against Zimbabwe and I was expecting to get picked up for the New Zealand home series, but that too didn’t happen and I have no idea what went wrong.

You had been in the International Circuit for about couple of years. Any memorable performances you would like to share with us?

Yeah, lots of them. The first one was at Toronto where I didn’t play a match but we won the cup and Sourav was in magnificent form back then. The next one came against Australia at Sharjah, where Sachin played two brilliant innings. Apart from that, I got a one day 50 against Australia at Kochi which was a memorable knock. I also got a Man of the Match at Baroda against Zimbabwe. Apart from these, the wickets which I have got in the One Dayers have all been memorable because most of them were very good batsmen. I’ve got Steve Waugh out, Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting out, Michael Bevan, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Anwar and quite a few top order batsmen. Those are the times that I cherish as a decent bowler who has managed to get good top order wickets. Apart from that, I have always liked sharing moments with my team players. If some body from the team does well, then I feel happy for that player. In those 2-3 years, Sachin played some wonderful innings, Rahul played some brilliant knocks, Azzu bhai (Azharuddin) was there who played some superb knocks, Sourav got some runs, Laxman got 167 at Sydney. So, I’ve enjoyed every bit of my International career.

Probably, you missed out on the splendid catch that you took to dismiss Inzamam at deep square leg at Adelaide?

Yeah (laughs). That was a memorable catch to be reminded of. Infact I’ve been fortunate to take quite a few number of good catches.

You as a captain have led Maharashtra from the Plate level to the Elite level, so what major differences do you find between the plate level and the elite level?

I think the only difference is that the cricket is a little more positive. There is no between like stage. You get no points for a loss or a first innings loss and get points for a win or a first innings win. I think our team is getting used to it. The cricket is a little different, the level I think isn’t very different but we are getting used to it.

Do you consider yourself lucky for having scored the winning runs in the finals at Dhaka and again at Sharjah?

Yeah, I did that quite a few times and it was always enjoyable to finish the match. It’s good to shut the lid and win the match and I hope I can do it again in the future.

How do you look at this 2004/05 Ranji Season for Maharashtra as a captain and as an Individual?

As a captain I would say, I would like the boys to do well and stay in the Elite league. We don’t have any big plans of going to the Semis or winning, but we look to do well even if it’s an okay performance we would be in the middle of the league and won’t be relegated. Personally last season has been good for me with 1200 runs which included 5 centuries. Getting 1200 runs every time isn’t easy but I’ll try to get close to a 1000 runs.

Any message you want to give to the Budding Cricketers?

Yeah, what I would like to say is work very hard at your game. Give everything that you have but don’t neglect your academics and keep trying hard.

Ok Hrishi we got a question from a surprise guest, Iqbal Siddiqui (Former Indian Test Player and Prolific Player for Maharashtra) and he wants to know when you will be back in the Indian Side because he seriously thinks that you are a captain material for India.

Hopefully very soon, Last 2 games I haven’t done much. I haven’t played well in this game too. A few more runs hopefully and I don’t think it should be very difficult.

Ok we now have a question from a promising opening batsman who almost made it to the Indian Test Side and that’s Dheeraj Jadhav. He wants to know how you rate the present youngsters in the Maharashtra team.

I think the present Maharashtra contingent is really good. Dheeraj is doing well and I am very happy for him and I am happy that he got a 100 today. He has been in the Indian 15 but he hasn’t got into the 11. But if he keeps on getting runs like this I think he can get into the Indian XI very easily. We have a very young side and a good thing with a young side is that you can only improve with a young side. So we are trying to be positive. The keeper Satyajit Satbhai is very talented; we have a good future so we need to work on the basics.

How important has the Paras Mhambrey factor been to the Maharashtra team?

He has been a very important asset to the team. We don’t look at him as a coach. Most of the guys haven’t played with him, still they look at him as a friend. He has led Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy and has won the Finals. I think he has been very good for us and we have formed a good partnership and we get along very well. We expect better things in the future.

Any message for our website?

I think the way you are covering Ranji Trophy, you should keep doing that. Keep reporting whatever happens at the domestic level, because that’s where India gets its players from. I think this level shouldn’t be neglected at all because lots of newspapers tend to neglect domestic cricket if there is something International going on. I think if you stick to whatever you are doing just now, it’s very good. Even if you become huge, keep the work going.

Posted by on March 31, 2015. Filed under India, Interviews, OyeCricket Columns. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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