Domestic cricket stalwart Rajinder Goel passes away

Rajinder Goel, whose cricket journey began with Southern Punjab during the 1957-88 season, played his last Ranji Trophy match for Haryana in 1985-86.

Bishan Bedi described Rajinder Goel as a captain’s dream.   -  R.V. Moorthy

Rajinder Goel, one of the finest left-arm spinners never to play for the country, passed away on Sunday.

Rohtak-based Goel, 77, lost the battle against age-related health issues. He is survived by his wife and son, Nitin. A left-handed opener, Nitin represented Haryana for many seasons and later became a BCCI match-referee.

Goel, whose cricket journey began with Southern Punjab during the 1957-88 season, played his last Ranji Trophy match for Haryana in 1985-86. During his illustrious career, Goel took 750 first-class wickets.

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Part of an era when the spin-quartet of Bishan Singh Bedi, B. S. Chandrashekhar, E. A. S. Prasanna and S. Venkataraghvan performed with distinction for the country, Goel was destined to remain the most prolific, wicket-taking left-arm spinner in domestic cricket in a career spread over 28 seasons.

In 2012, Goel was bestowed the Life-time Achievement Award by the BCCI. In fact, former captain Sunil Gavaskar devoted a chapter on Goel in his second book titled Idols.

Goel, who earned immense respect from cricketing greats and former Indian captains like Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Bedi, Gavaskar, G. R. Viswanath and Kapil Dev, among others, rued missing out a chance to make the Indian squad against the visiting West Indies team under Clive Lloyd in the 1974-75 season.

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Ahead of the first Test at Bangalore, where Viv Richards and Gordon Greenidge made their debut, National selectors preferred two off-spinners and a leg-spinner, thereby leaving no room for Goel’s selection. A disappointed, but not disheartened, Goel continued to torment batsmen in domestic cricket for the following decade.

He did regret not being able to help Haryana win the Ranji Trophy. But he always cherished the memories of Kapil Dev-led squad humbling host Mumbai by two runs in the 1990-91 Ranji Trophy final.

Goel would often say, “I was born in the wrong era.” Today, his passing away has ended an era.

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