Two ‘unsung artists’ in the spotlight

The deeds of Padmakar Shivalkar and Rajinder Goel have been gloriously documented by history. The recognition has come now. Better late than never as they say.

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

 

Padmakar Shivalkar, 76, and Rajinder Goel, 74, have been busy reconstructing their halcyon days on the cricket field. Their phones have not stopped ringing since the announcement of the Col C. K. Nayudu Award being conferred on them by the BCCI as they revisit some chapters all but forgotten from times when they commanded respect from the best of batsmen.

“Now I can understand how tough it must be for the celebrated cricketers. Being bombarded with non-stop phone calls,” laughs Goel saab. His illustrious partner from Mumbai echoes the sentiments. Goel saab last played a first-class game at 43 and Paddy Sir, as Shivalkar is fondly called, at 47 after being forced to come out of retirement by Bombay skipper Dilip Vengsarkar.

In that comeback match at the Wankhede Stadium, Shivalkar, producing a 46-over spell, foxed the great G. R. Viswanath into a drive that ended in the hands of the fielder at cover. Some feat that, considering Viswanath’s mastery at the crease when dealing with the spinners!

Their deeds have been gloriously documented by history. The recognition has come now. Better late than never as they say. The current generation, brought up on a diet of limited-overs cricket, could learn so much from the profound praise that Bishan Singh Bedi heaped upon Goel and Shivalkar.

‘Very happy’

“I’m very happy for both of them. They had what makes a good spinner – technique and temperament. I really used to revere them for these two qualities. They had amazing patience, too. They had in abundance the humility that marks a great sportsman. To me, they have been two beautiful but unsung artists. They never had any rivalry, no bitterness. I think it was a matter of getting a break. I was fortunate to get one. Today’s cricketers just can’t fathom their selfless service to the game. Their first-class career is an example for all to follow. Paddy and Goel saab deserve more than anyone,” said Bedi.

Goel finished with 750 first-class wickets from 39,781 balls. He and Shivalkar, also Bedi, were picked by Sunil Gavaskar for his book Idols. On Goel, Bedi added, “I rate him very high. He was an outstanding professional, very committed. He never had to bowl with 400 on the board which Paddy had because of the strong Bombay batting line-up. Goel started before me and finished after me. This is what I call selfless commitment. I remember he never asked for a field. Chandra (B.S. Chandrasekhar) never did. Goel was a captain’s dream.”

Bedi described Shivalkar as a perfect role model. “Paddy was very accurate, very humble, lovely human being. His humility stretched beyond the boundary. Where are such players now?”

Shivalkar, with an aggregate of 589 first-class wickets from 34,125 balls, was a late entry to the Bombay team because of Bapu Nadkarni. And missed Test selection of Bedi. Starting with tennis ball cricket, Shivalkar was moulded by the great Vinoo Mankad and developed into a devastating bowler with his flight and variation. He had enviable control over the ball. “I was not destined to bowl for India. I have no regrets really. In any case, at my age does it matter if I played Test cricket or not? I played cricket and that is what matters,” Shivalkar averred. He keeps himself busy with coaching now.

Destiny

The closest Goel came to playing for India when he was summoned to Bangalore for the opening Test against the West Indies in 1974-75. Bedi had been dropped for the Test. But the Test cap eluded still. “I felt sad when they decided to play two off-spinners (Prasanna and Venkataraghavan) and I lost out to destiny,” rued Goel. Did Bedi block his entry earlier? “Not at all! He was a very a big player, much better than me.” This humility was the common thread that bound Shivalkar, Goel and Bedi.