‘What might have been?’ I love these words. At times the facts become a bit dreary, often the same story just gets repeated. In these times, I love to imagine things that actually go against the facts.
This is the third article in a series where I select a team of cricketers from each country who have the distinction of playing in only one Test.
India, like New Zealand, have only been playing Test cricket since the early 1930s, and just over 300 players have now represented India in Test matches since Amar Singh received the very first Indian Test cap and opened the bowling against England at Lord’s in 1932. Not every player went on to have long Test careers, with some 50 Indian players only playing a solitary Test. Here is a team, in batting order, made up of Indian players since 1965 who only played one Test, and it’s not such a bad team.
1. Kenia Jayantilal
Jayantilal was a well performed first class opening bat who was noted for his solid defensive technique. He scored nearly 4700 first class runs at an average of just over 36, and picked up eight centuries and 22 half centuries along the way. After some strong performances in the Indian first class competition in 1971 he was selected on the Indian tour of the West Indies, and won his first Test cap as a replacement for the injured Sunil Gavaskar in the first Test in Kingston, Jamaica. Opening the batting, he was out for five with the Indian score on ten, and India were not required to bat again in what was a drawn game.
2. Ghulam Parkar
Parkar was an aggressive opening batsman who scored nearly 4200 runs in domestic first class cricket at the respectable average of just over 42. He scored 11 first class centuries, with a top score of 170*, and 20 half centuries. Strong domestic form saw him included on the 1982 tour to England and in the first Test at Lord’s. Opening the batting with Sunil Gavaskar, he was out for scores of just six and one as India were defeated by seven wickets. He was also a noted fielder.
3. Ajay Sharma (captain)
How Sharma only ever played one solitary Test match is a complete mystery. Check out these first class figures: 10,120 runs at an average of 67.46, 38 centuries and 36 half centuries, and a top score of 259*. Add to that 87 first class wickets bowling his left arm spin. He went on to play 31 ODIs for his country, and received his solitary Test cap against the West Indies in the fourth Test at Chennai in 1988. He scored 30 and 23 as India went on to win the match by 253 runs on the back of Narendra Hirwani’s 16-wicket haul.
4. Ramesh Saxena
A teenage prodigy, Ramesh Saxena performed well in his 149 game first class career, accumulating over 8100 runs at an average of just over 40, with 17 centuries and 42 fifties to his credit. He particularly enjoyed batting against the spinners. He was also excellent in the field and a handy, if part time, leg spinner. He got his one and only opportunity in Test cricket at the age of 23 when he opened the batting for India against England in Leeds in the first Test in 1967, chasing England’s first innings total of four declared for 550. He was bowled for just nine and then batted at seven in the second innings scoring 16, as England cruised to a six-wicket victory.
5. Gursharan Singh
Singh got his first taste of Test cricket in 1983 at the age of 20 when he took four catches while fielding as a substitute fielder. He had to wait another seven years for a Test cap though, when he was selected to play against NZ in the drawn third Test in Auckland. Batting at seven in the first innings, he scored 18 off 38 balls and wasn’t required to bat in the second innings. Although he never played another Test, he was no slouch with the bat, scoring over 5700 runs at an average of just over 43 in first class cricket, with 14 centuries and 30 half centuries, and a top score of 298*.
6. Saba Karim (wicketkeeper)
Karim commenced his first class career at the age of just 15 in 1982 and over the next few years built a reputation as a fine wicketkeeper and batsman. He scored some 7300 runs in first class cricket with the admirable average of just under 57, with an impressive 22 centuries and 33 half centuries. While he played over 30 ODIs for India he remained a back-up wicketkeeping option in Test cricket until he was finally selected at the age of 32 for a Test against Bangladesh in 2000. He scored 15 off 46 balls in India’s first innings and wasn’t required to bat again as India went on to win the match by nine wickets.
7. Robin Singh
Singh proved himself to be a great all-rounder both at first class level and in his 136 ODIs for his country, but only had the one chance in Test cricket. A hard-hitting left-hand batsman, economical right-arm medium pacer, and a brilliant fielder, he can consider himself unlucky not to get more opportunities. He scored nearly 7000 runs at first class level at an average of just on 46, with 22 hundreds and 33 fifties, and he also took 172 wickets. His sole Test match opportunity came towards the end of his career at the age of 35 in Harare against Zimbabwe in 1998, when he scored 15 and 12 and only bowled ten overs.
8. Rakesh Shukla
Shukla was an excellent leg spin bowler and more than handy late-order batsman as his first class figures will attest. He took just under 300 first class wickets at an average of just over 25 and scored nearly 3800 runs at an average of just under 32, with six centuries and 17 half centuries. Despite making his first class debut at the age of 21, he had to wait until age 34 to play his sole Test match, when he was selected to take on Sri Lanka in Chennai in 1982. He didn’t get a bat in either innings and finished with bowling figures of 2-152 off 49 overs for the match, which ended up in a draw.
9. Vinay Kumar
Kumar was an accurate right-arm swing bowler who was a prolific wicket taker in first class cricket, ending up with just over 500 wickets at the very good average of just over 22. He took five wickets in an innings on 26 occasions, and ten wickets in a match five times. He was also useful with the bat scoring over 3300 runs at an average of 22, with two centuries and 17 fifties. He played a total of 40 ODIs and T20s for India but his sole Test appearance came in the third Test against Australia in Perth in 2012, a game won comfortably by Australia. Bowling first change, he took 1-73 off 13 overs in the first innings when he had Michael Hussey caught behind for 14, and that was it, as Australia weren’t called on to bat a second time.
10. Margashayam Venkataramana
Venkataramana was another cricketer unable to bridge the gap between a promising first class career and international cricket. Bowling off spin, he took nearly 250 first class wickets at an average of just under 30. After playing his sole ODI against NZ in 1988, he was selected for his only Test in 1989, in the fourth Test against the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, and finished the match with bowling figures of 1-58. Even though he continued to play first class cricket for another ten years, he was never again called up for Test duty.
11. Salil Ankola
Ankola hit the ground running in first class cricket, taking a hat trick in his first match followed by a six-wicket haul in his second. He was then selected for the 1989 tour of Pakistan at the age of 21 and took 6-77 in the tour opener. He then made his Test debut in the drawn first Test against Pakistan in Karachi in November 1989 and finished with bowling figures of 1-93 and 1-35 bowling first change. Injuries then kept him out of the remaining Tests in that series, and although he then faded from the Test team, he went on to play 20 ODIs for his country, together with 57 first class matches where he picked up 181 wickets at an average of just above 25.
12. Subroto Banerjee
Banerjee had only a brief taste of international cricket, playing his first ODI in December 1991 and his last just a year later. A right-arm fast-medium bowler, he was a steady first class player, taking 135 wickets at an average of just under 30, and scoring 1200 first class runs at an average of just over 18. He played his solitary Test for India in the drawn third Test against Australia at the SCG in 1992, and was the pick of the bowlers in the first innings, finishing with the wickets of Geoff Marsh, Mark Taylor and Mark Waugh for 47 runs. Surprisingly, he didn’t get a bowl in the second innings, and fading form saw him exit the international sphere for good at the age of 23.