BCCI recently announced Rajinder Goel and Padmakar Shivalkar as the recipients of the prestigious CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award. The name of Padmakar Shivalkar made cricket fans of the forgone era remember a tragic tale of ill-fate and bad luck that prevented a talented spinner from playing Test cricket.
Those who saw Shivalkar bowl spin bowling, even to this day wonder why he could not play a single Test match. Such was Shivalkar’s control over spin that he could run through the opposition in no time and could bowl accurately for hours.
But his emergence coincided with that of the maverick Bishan Singh Bedi who was equally skilled and had plenty of variations in his armoury. Indian national team at that time already had three world class spinners in the squad in the form of Erapalli Prasanna, Srinivas Venkataraghavan, and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar.
Hence, only one spot was left for another spinner and Bedi was given the first preference. Bedi’s tremendous success meant Shivalkar would never get an opportunity to represent his nation at Test level.
Thus a promising story of a great cricketer ended with bad luck and tragedy. Here are a few vital things about Shivalkar which will interest all cricket fans.
#1 Accidental start to Cricket
Padmakar Shivalkar never dreamt of playing leather ball cricket. However, during his free time, he played cricket with the tennis ball. During one such morning, he was asked to bowl in the nets at Bradbury Mill by his friend Dattu Satelkar. It was Shivalkar’s first encounter with they leather ball.
That day, he only had to bowl three deliveries at the nets to impress the legendary Vinoo Mankad who promptly asked him to start playing club cricket.
Soon, Vijay Manjrekar offered an invitation to Shivalkar to join the Shivaji Park Gymkhana which was at that time Mumbai’s top club. This was the beginning of an illustrious career which included several accolades and records.
#2 Legendry domestic career
After getting support from Vinoo Mankad, Vijay Manjrekar and GK Menon in the initial stages, Padmakar Shivalkar lived up to their expectations by becoming the most successful spinner from Mumbai.
He made his debut at the age of 22 and soon became an integral member of Mumbai’s juggernaut that won 20 Ranji tournaments in 22 years. Shivalkar was part of 18 Ranji trophy victories and was famous for routing oppositions in final matches.
His demolition of Tamil Nadu in the 1973 Ranji final is a part of folklore. Mumbai in their 1st innings registered a paltry score of 151 and at 62 for 2 Tamil Nadu looked set to gain the vital 1st inning lead.
Shivalkar then stepped to the occasion and grabbed 8 wickets for only 16 runs. From 62 for 2, Tamil Nadu collapsed to 80 all out. If this wasn’t enough, he came back in the second innings to incur further damage and picked up 5 more wickets. Mumbai won that match by whopping 123 runs.
He ended his first-class career with 589 wickets and till date, is the highest wicket-taker in spin department for Mumbai.
#3 Shivalkar played first-class Cricket until age of 48
Physical fitness is a critical aspect for any bowler. Bowling takes a heavy toll on the body and any minute mistake in the bowling action can result in some serious damage to the body. Hence, bowlers playing after the age of 35 are considered a rarity and fitness becomes a valuable trait as good as speed or variation.
Shivalkar was not only a genius with his accuracy and control over spin but was also one of the fittest cricketers of his era. With limited medical facilities and little scientific help available, it is a wonder how he kept himself fit and healthy during those days.
Shivalkar was a regular member of Mumbai’s squad even after turning 45 and he played his last first-class game at the age of 48.
#4 A singer off the field
While he made batsmen dance to his bowling on the field, off the field too he moved people with his singing skills. An ardent music lover, Shivalkar found solace in music and has a vast knowledge of Bollywood music of his time.
People who have listened to his singing, claim that he vented his frustration of not playing for Indian team through it.
#5 Honorary mention in Gavaskar’s Idols
This legendary spinner received plenty of appreciation at various levels for his bowling, however, the praise from Sunil Gavaskar deserves a special mention.
Gavaskar was arguably the most complete batsmen of that era and hence for Shivalkar, Gavaskar’s appreciation in some way soothes the pain of not playing Test cricket.
Gavaskar’s book ‘Idols’ is a collection of short essays on cricketers he admired and considered his favourites. It includes legends like Kapil Dev, Gundappa Vishwanath, Chappell brothers and Richard Hadlee. From players who never played Test cricket, only two made into this list- Rajinder Goel and Padmakar Shivalkar.
Gavaskar said that during his captaincy he always tried to persuade selectors to include Shivalkar in the side, but due to a fierce competition, he was unsuccessful. Gavaskar claims that Shivalkar would have easily waked in the Indian team if he had played in some different decade.
Padmakar Shivalkar had all the qualities which are required to become an international cricketer. His only flaw? He was born in the wrong era. That’s why they say along with skill, knowledge, and talent, players need that special touch of luck for playing at the highest level!