Former India allrounder Bapu Nadkarni dies aged 86

Bapu Nadkarni bowling against Australia © Getty Images

Bapu Nadkarni, the former India allrounder known for his extreme economy with the ball, has died aged 86.

Nadkarni, who made his India debut in December 1955, played 41 Test matches, scoring 1414 runs at an average of 25.70 and taking 88 wickets at 29.07. The statistic that defined him, though, was his economy rate of 1.67, the second-best in history among all bowlers with 50 or more Test wickets.

Nadkarni took four Test-match five-fors with his left-arm spin, including a match-winning 6 for 43 in Wellington, during India’s historic tour of New Zealand in 1967-68, when they won their first-ever overseas series.

His most famous performance, however, included no wickets. At the Corporation Stadium in Chennai (then Madras) in January 1964, Nadkarni finished with figures of 32-27-5-0 in England’s first innings, bowling 21 successive maidens (and 21.5 scoreless overs in a row) along the way. It remains the most economical spell of 60 or more balls in Test cricket.

The 21 successive maidens, meanwhile, were a record not just in Tests but in first-class matches too, eclipsing Horace Hazell’s 17 successive maidens for Somerset against Gloucestershire in 1949. Hugh Tayfield, another famously economical spinner, had bowled 137 successive dot balls (as against Nadkarni’s 131) against England in Durban in January 1957, but that Test match featured eight-ball overs.

Nadkarni was a reliable contributor with the bat as well, scoring seven fifties and one hundred, an unbeaten 122 from No. 3 against England in Kanpur. He averaged 40.36 with the bat in first-class cricket, with 14 centuries.

Bapu Nadkarni (fifth from left) during a corporate tour of Pakistan in 1961 © SD Rege/ACC Ltd

Milind Rege, the former Mumbai captain, said Nadkarni was a true allrounder.

“Bapu Nadkarni was a great allrounder of Indian cricket and definitely a pillar of Mumbai cricket,” Rege said. “He didn’t get the accolades he deserved. He was one of the lead spinners and then would bat at No. 5 for Mumbai.”

Rege reckoned that Nadkarni’s figures of 32-27-5-0 would never be eclipsed. “Records are meant to be broken, but 21 overs and 5 balls without giving a run will never ever beaten by anybody.”

Rege would call Nadkarni ‘Bapu saheb‘, as a mark of respect. Rege, along with his friend and teammate Sunil Gavaskar, learned a valuable lesson from Nadkarni, a characteristic Mumbai cricket is often associated with. “The khadoos thing that applies to Mumbai cricket, he would be right at the top. He was not a stylish player at all. With that stance he had, he managed to score important runs including the 283 not out against Delhi in the 1960-61 Ranji Trophy semifinals. He just would not give anything away, he was that khadoos.”

Off the field, Nadkarni was a soft-spoken man, known to be particular about details. “Bapu saheb was a lovely person,” Rege said. “The gentleman cricketer. Sunil [Gavaskar] and I played with Bapu saheb when we were 17. He was among the Mumbai greats who nurtured us. He had a great sense of humour. And he could take a joke on himself and laugh it away.”

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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