ANIL GULATIIndia’s national cricket championship – Ranji Trophy has a great history and astonishing fact. One of the astonishing facts is that highest wicket taker in Ranji Trophy has never played international cricket. Yes, it is a fact. Left arm spinner Rajinder Goel has the distinction of capturing 642 wickets in this prestigious tournament and not got a chance to represent his country in Tests of One day Internationals. Incidentally he celebrates his birthday today. Goel was born in a small town – Narwana in Haryana on 20th September 1942 turns 77 today. He has all the joys of life except the frustration of not representing the country despite having been blessed with enormous talent which was acknowledged by one and all off and on the field. He produced superlative performance on the field year after year in the domestic fields and shattered the dreams of hundreds of batsmen aspiring to play long innings for their home teams by dismissing them cheaply. His accuracy earned him the nick name “MR. ACCURATE” while his penetrative bowling brought him accolades from master cricketers like Sunil Gavaskar and salutation from a dreaded dacoit lodged in a jail. Gentle in his behaviour, Goel generally do not criticises any one for his non-inclusion in Indian cricket team. But sometimes he blames the era in which he was born. Infact, when he was playing domestic cricket, the places in the Indian team were occupied by the famous spin quartet comprising Bishan Singh Bedi, Bhagwat Chandershekhar, Erapralli Prasanna and Srinivas Venkatragvon. Each of them had a proven track record and perhaps selectors found it difficult to disturb the combination. In the seventies the performing quartet had scripted some of the memorable victories for India in the international cricket. Had he been playing in any other era; he would have definitely played for his country. Before shifting to Haryana after its formation in 1966, Goel represented Southern Punjab and Delhi also and played for his employers State Bank of India. In his long and illustrious domestic cricket career he was associated with many memorable instances. He had the rare honour of dismissing father and son combinations. He dismissed Lala Amarnath and his sons Surinder, Mohinder and Rajinder Amarnth, M. L. Jaisimha and his son Vivek Jaisimha, Vijay Manjrekar and his son Sanjay Manjrekar. In another interesting episode he got a letter from a dacoit lodged in jail. Dacoit Bukha Singh Yadav serving a jail term behind the bar appreciated Goel for his on-field performance through a letter. He retired from cricket in 1984-85 – a year in which he had claimed 39 wickets which speak volumes of his fitness and his ability to pick wickets. After his retirement he was associated with selection panel of the Haryana Ranji team and was member and chairman of the national junior selection committee of the BCCI. Goel tells with pride that In 2000, the Under-19 boys won the World Cup in Sri Lanka, then the Under-15 team lifted the Asia Cup in Malaysia and finally we had the Under-17 team winning the Asia Cup in Bangladesh earlier in 2001. His son Nitin Goel also had a stint with Ranji Trophy as an opening batsman. Goel was recognised as he emerged recipient of the Life Time Achievement Award. Perhaps most satisfying moment in his cricketing life must the recognition and praise showered upon him by Sunil Gavaskar who in his book ‘Idols’ published in 1983 devoted one complete chapter on Goel and acknowledged him among his 31 idols.
MR. ACCURATE- RAJINDER GOEL (LEFT) WITH ANIL GULATI