Clayton Murzello: Fine reward for Paddy's field work

By  Clayton Murzello | Posted  02-Mar-2017

It’s a welcome coincidence that Shivalkar gets rewarded in the birth centenary year of Vinoo Mankad, who ‘passed’ him when he had failed

Delhi’s Bishan Singh Bedi and Padmakar Shivalkar greet each other after the 1980-81 Ranji Trophy final which Mumbai won at Wankhede Stadium. Pic/mid-day archives
Delhi’s Bishan Singh Bedi and Padmakar Shivalkar greet each other after the 1980-81 Ranji Trophy final which Mumbai won at Wankhede Stadium. Pic/mid-day archives

Two left-arm spinners will walk up on stage to collect their Colonel CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement awards at Bangalore next week in the birth centenary year of Vinoo Mankad, the finest left-arm spinner produced by this country. Can things get better for yesteryear spin bowling in India?

The new administrators of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) deserve to be commended for their choice to reward domestic giants, Padmakar ‘Paddy’ Shivalkar and Rajinder Goel. Former India women’s captain Shantha Rangaswamy will get a lifetime achievement award too.

For Mumbai cricket, it’s celebration time. Shivalkar (76) is not only admired for his toil on the maidans, gymkhanas, Brabourne and Wankhede stadiums, but is also much-loved for his good nature and his forays into the musical scene.

Shivalkar has not been in the news after his term as chairman of Mumbai selectors ended a few years ago. It’s different now. The phone at his Prabhadevi residence has been ringing like never before and he is delighted to take calls from old friends and former cricketing teammates.

Shivalkar did everything in his power when his lion-crested Mumbai cap was held by the umpire before he took his three-step run up to bowl. His tireless efforts fetched him 361 wickets in 74 Ranji Trophy games for this city.

His cricketing journey was a fascinating one and he told me a good part of it when I interviewed him at his Tata Chemicals office at Bombay House in 1995, before he headed to Aurangabad for his benefit match
organised by those two great servants of Mumbai cricket — Prakash Kelkar and the late Prakash Palekar. My late colleague J Dey, who was shot dead in 2011, accompanied me to click photographs of Shivalkar.

Dey and I were astounded to hear that he hadn’t held a hard cricket ball before he appeared for the Bradbury Mills trials supervised by Mankad in the late 1950s. Shivalkar, a tennis ball bowler then, was looking for a job and his friend Dattu Satelkar urged him to appear for the ‘examination’ to be held at the PJ Hindu Gymkhana. Shivalkar was petrified when he was told that the man approaching the net area was none other than the great Mankad. He bowled two balls. The first one hit a pole on the right side of the net. The next one was completely off target too. Just as he turned to bowl his third delivery, Mankad asked him, “Will you work?” Of course, he wanted the job and took it, but what Mankad saw in him through those two deliveries, Shivalkar is yet to figure out.

As someone who has done some level of coaching at the Shivaji Park Gymkhana, Shivalkar told me yesterday that had he been in Mankad’s shoes, he would have asked the inaccurate bowler to go back and practise before appearing for his next trial. That’s where Mankad was different. Anyone who was sincere earned his approval. All a player had to do next was follow his instructions and that’s what Shivalkar did to master his craft.

Shivalkar made his Ranji Trophy debut in 1965-66, but probably his most memorable bowling performance came four seasons earlier on the hallowed turf of the Brabourne Stadium when he bowled for the GS Ramchand-led Cricket Club of India President’s XI and claimed five International XI wickets on his first-class debut. His victims included Test star Ian Craig of Australia, West Indian icon Everton Weekes, England batsman Raman Subba Row and a certain Richie Benaud, the captain. A spell of five for 129 was followed by the second innings wickets of Tom Graveney, who scored 175 for England on the same ground in 1951 and Weekes again - this time bowled.

“I would rate that as my best achievement. I bowled to some of the best players in the world on a very good batting track,” said Shivalkar.

No piece on Shivalkar will be complete without mentioning the fact that he deserved to earn an India cap. Yes, he was part of an India team which visited Sri Lanka in 1973-74 under Ajit Wadekar, but that’s not quite the same as a Test cap.

The closest Shivalkar came to making the India squad was in 1974, when Bishan Singh Bedi was dropped (on disciplinary grounds for speaking out in an interview on the tour to England) for the opening Test against the West Indies in Bangalore.

Sports writer Sunder Rajan hit out at the selectors in his book, India vs West Indies 1974-75: “They picked Goel right out of the blue when Shivalkar should have been the obvious choice. And, while finalising the eleven on the eve of the match, they decided to drop Goel and fill the vacancy with an extra off-spinner.”

Shivalkar and Goel meeting up in the same city where their aspirations were once crushed, puts an ironic ring around their lifetime award. But then, irony has always played a big role in their careers — top performers, but no India cap to show for it.

mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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