Former India spinner Rakesh Shukla passes away

Former India leg-spinner Rakesh Shukla passed away at the age of 71 in New Delhi on Saturday.

Rakesh Shukla played 121 first class matches, claimed 295 wickets and aggregated 3798 runs. (File Photo)   -  Shanker Chakravarty

Former India, Delhi and Bihar player Rakesh Shukla passed away at the age of 71 in New Delhi on Saturday.

He had represented Delhi and Bihar in first-class cricket and earned his Test cap against Sri Lanka in 1982.

Known for his gentle demeanour, Shukla was loved by his teammates for his nature to help anyone who sought his guidance. “I learnt my lessons from my seniors and it is my duty to pass on the knowledge to the current generation,” he would often say.

Having picked early lessons from elder brother Anand, who was also a leg-spinner and played for Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Shukla was widely respected for his ability to beat the batsman in the air. “He was not afraid of flighting the ball. What I loved most about him was his spirit to fight. No batsman could challenge him on a help pitch. He was a match-winner,” said his long time Delhi teammate Madan Lal.

“I had many partnerships with him. He could bat sensibly and also guide his partner,” remembered Madan.

One of Shukla’s memorable performances came in the 1982 Ranji Trophy when Delhi chased Karnataka’s score of 705. Skipper Mohinder Amarnath struck 185 and a 101 by Gursharan Singh set up the chase which was given the finishing touches by Shukla’s brilliance with the bat.

Batting at No 9 and coming in at 548, Shukla (69 not out) stuck it out with Rajesh Peter (67 not out). Their 118-run chanceless partnership took the game away from Karnataka. “I give credit to Rajesh,” was Shukla’s humble response after that epic victory.

“It was an unforgettable day for Delhi cricket and Rakesh had a huge hand in it,” Madan said of that effort from the all-rounder.

"(He was) a wonderful human being," said his former Delhi colleague Surender Khanna. "(He was a )very good team-man and was always positive. We were together in SAIL after sharing the Delhi dressing room for years. (I) have so many memories of him. Whenever the team needed him to perform, he came up with something special. That was a special quality in him. I pray that his soul rests in peace," he added.

Bishan Singh Bedi called Shukla a "no-fuss" cricketer: "(He was) a no-fuss cricketer. We played in the same team. (He was) extremely committed with both ball and bat and gave his 100 per cent. (He) had a quiet presence in the dressing room. He left the way he played his cricket - no fuss."

Shukla loved to coach youngsters and insisted they learn the basics well. “Cricket teaches you to live life honestly. You must respect the laws of the game and never show dissent on the field,” was his philosophy. He stayed connected with the game through an academy he ran at the YMCA and was a popular expert with All India Radio.

Shukla played 121 first class matches, claimed 295 wickets and aggregated 3798 runs.