Sanklecha: 'If you are fit, you can play at any age'

Anupam Sanklecha's tale is one of the financial crunch leading to a wrong decision (in hindsight), that kept him out of the game for years, before starting from ground zero and becoming the leader of the Maharashtra bowling attack.

In 2004, Sanklecha topped the Maharashtra region and qualified for the finals. He also debuted for Maharashtra in the same year.   -  K. Pichumani

Almost an hour into the second session on day three, Maharashtra employed spin at both ends. Pacer Anupam Sanklecha had just bowled a short spell after lunch, picked a wicket - his seventh of the innings; eight had fell in all - and was deputed to the outfield for a breather to ready himself to bowl again if his side could enforce the follow on.

Off-spinner Chirag Khurana, then, snared one for the ninth wicket, after which, Sanklecha quickly ran in from the deep, and marked his run-up well before his captain could intervene. Assam’s innings came to end on the last ball of his over - it was 286 runs behind.

On a true-paced wicket where there was hardly any assistance for the fast bowlers, the 34-year old from Ahmednagar district single-handedly changed the fortunes for his side picking 12 wickets to engineer an innings victory.

But Sanklecha’s tale is one of the financial crunch leading to a wrong decision (in hindsight), that kept him out of the game for years, before starting from ground zero and becoming the leader of the bowling attack. The pacer was spotted in a talent hunt competition for fast bowlers conducted in the early 2000s.

In 2004, Sanklecha topped the Maharashtra region and qualified for the finals which was won by Parwinder Awana with Ashoke Dinda coming second. Sanklecha debuted for Maharashtra the same year.

After three seasons and 16 matches, Sanklecha jumped ship to the Indian Cricket League, a decision that would keep him out of the game for years. “My financial condition was not great and I got a good offer from ICL. So, I took it. But we got banned and I lost three to four years.”

“For one and a half years we did not get access to any grounds associated with the state association and could not play in local matches or even train.”

At a stage where many would have given up on the dream, Sanklecha decided to start from scratch once again. “During that period, I just trained with my friends and was able to work on different aspects of my bowling that helped me develop my game.”

Post the amnesty scheme in 2009, it took another two years for Sanklecha to find favours with the state side after playing in various selection tournaments, returning to the side in 2011, where he played just one game that year.

However in the last three years, Sanklecha has become the leader of the attack with his side reaching the finals in 2013-14 season. For the last three years, the pacer has been travelling to England during the off-season to play for Shipton Under Wychwood Cricket Club and says it has made a lot of difference to his game.

“I kept on playing matches and was working on my fitness. Once I came back it was easy for me to join the probables as I was already in rhythm.”

Sanklecha is now the second highest wicket-taker this season with 35 wickets from six matches, one behind Pankaj Singh who has played seven.

So what keeps him going at 34? “I’ve been trying to progress from the first-class level for the past 15 years but it’s not worked for me. I just want to perform, and maybe, one day the door will open. Ashish Nehra has shown he can lead the Indian attack at 37 years, so why not me?” “If you are fit and can perform, then you can play at any age.”