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In the rich tapestry of Indian cricket, there exists a fascinating narrative that often goes overlooked—the stories of forgotten Indian cricketers. While the limelight shines brightly on celebrated icons and current stars, there are numerous players who have made significant contributions to the sport but have gradually faded into obscurity over time. These cricketers, who once donned the Indian jersey with pride, have left an indelible mark on the nation’s cricketing history. India’s cricket history pages are replete with young players, who were considered one of the most gifted cricketers, vane away as a resultant off excess publicity or overnight fame getting to the head. It is time to uncover the tales of these forgotten Indian cricketers.
|Vikram Raj Vir Singh
Remember Ravi of 1998’s hit TV series Kora Kagaz? Well, the actor in the Renuka Shahane-starrer serial was none other than former international cricketer Salil Ankola.
Born in Solapur, the feisty right-arm fast bowler has the distinction of debuting for the Indian national team along with the Master-Blaster Sachin Tendulkar. The time was November 15, 1989. The venue: National Stadium, Karachi. However, even as Tendulkar would go on to take big strides to reach the pinnacle of Cricket, Ankola, on the other hand, would languish in obscurity, at least when it comes to cricket.
ONTHISDAY 28 years ago: Four young boys, Salil Ankola 19, Shahid Saeed 23, Waqar Younis 18 and Sachin Tendulkar 16 started their Test careers in Karachi.— Emmad Hameed (@Emmad81) November 15, 2017
Two turned into absolute legends
Two NEVER played Test cricket again
It was not a bad inning for a debut – Salil managed to take two wickets for 128 runs in the drawn test. He then swiftly went on to mark his ODI debut with a figure of 2/26.
However, what followed thereafter is unfortunate. Salil suffered from a string of injuries. Although he got called when fit, he would rarely be able to break into the starting XI. This situation got so worse he inspired a term – ‘Ankolad’- for players who get called for the team but do not play.
Salil kept on coming in and out of the starting XI when he got the opportunity to prove his worth in the Hero Cup against South Africa. He went on to have a successful stint in the game, scalping 3 wickets for 33 runs. Those were the breakthrough figures, and one that still remains his best numbers.
Consequently, he was rewarded for his performances with a call-up for the 1996 World Cup. In the one match that he was asked to play (against Sri Lanka), Ankola could not manage a single wicket. That may be considered as the final nail in the coffin for the talented but unlucky fast bowler. Along with Vinod Kambli, Salil was scraped from the squad as India were knocked out of the semifinals by Sri Lanka.
Salil switched to an acting career thereafter and found relative success there. He went on to share screen space with Sanjay Dutt in Kurukshetra along with featuring in some successful TV shows like CID and Big Boss (Season 1).
Akash Chopra may not be the most forgotten cricketers on the list, but very few people know that he was once a highly-rated opener of his era. Chopra had amassed over 10,000 runs in the First Class cricket at a decent average of 45.35. Those figures also include a high score of 301*.
His form in domestic cricket led to the elusive Team India call up. Chopra’s debut and the initial matches against New Zealand were reasonable, scoring two fifties in the second Test. He seemed to gel well with veteran opener Virender Sehwag with whom he went on to record a 100-run partnership against Pakistan. However, fast forward to 10 Tests, and Chopra could manage only 437 runs at an average of 23.
In a country where there is no shortage of cricketing talent and the fact that there is the long list of players waiting for their chance to play at the top, Akash Chopra had to bow out of the national setup. After briefly playing for Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League, Chopra took up the microphone.
With the emergence of Hindi commentary, Akash too made his name in the field and frequently features in the post-match analysis as well.
Sriram was a highly rated all-rounder from Tamil Nadu at one time. He started his cricketing journey as a left-arm spinner managed to take 29 wickets on India’s Under-19 tour of South Africa in the 1992-93 season. Howbeit, it was his batting for Tamil Nadu that brought him wide recognition.
His breakthrough season was in 1999-2000 when he scored an astounding 1,075 runs in the Ranji Trophy that was studded with 5 centuries. He went on to be named as the Indian Cricket Cricketer of the Year.
Consequently, his form saw Sriram being selected in 2000 the India national cricket team. On his ODI debut against South Africa at Nagpur, he managed to score 36 runs. However, that was insufficient as India would go on to lose the innings only by 9 runs.
While at one hand his form was dipping, on the other, India was also having a bad phase. Naturally, after 8 matches when he could manage only 81 runs (at a dismal average of 13.50), he was shown the door by the selectors. Sriram resumed scoring heavily for Tamil Nadu in domestic cricket.
More recently, he took charges as the bowling coach of IPL side Kings XI Punjab before consulting Australian team for its test series in Bangladesh.
In the late 90s, India was in serious shortage of attacking batsman, and there was a need felt by the selectors to include a big-hitting batsman in the ranks.
Enter Atul Bedade. The Mumbai-born batting prodigy had made a name for himself for the no-holds-barred approach in the domestic cricket. Atul Bedade used to prefer hitting more sixes than singles.
His role in the Indian team was simple – to come in at number 6 spot and provide firepower towards the end of the innings. Agreed, very few players on the planet hit the ball as hard as Begade. But, the batsman would be stuck on playing each delivery for a boundary. This play style was discerned and exploited with fair ease by the pacers.
In the 13 ODIs that he played over seven months, Atul could manage only one fifty – a 51 that he made against West Indies.
He was soon ousted from the team India, although he kept on playing for Baroda in the domestic cricket. Post-retirement, Begade went on to get certified in umpiring, pitch curating, and coaching. However, off late, he is more into politics, having contested for the Vadodara Municipal Corporation.
Vikram Raj Vir Singh
In 2006, Vikram Raj Vir Singh burst onto the cricket scene as a promising fast bowler. Renowned for his outstanding performance in first-class cricket, boasting an impressive wicket-to-run ratio of 24, he swiftly garnered attention. Notably, Rahul Dravid himself hailed Vikram as the “fastest bowler in India.” However, Vikram’s career took a downturn as his form dwindled, eventually leading to his exclusion from the National Selection committee.
Nevertheless, Vikram’s love for cricket endured, and he persevered by joining the IPL franchise Kings XI Punjab. Currently, he plays a crucial role in the Punjab team’s campaigns in the Inter-State Twenty-20 Tournament and Ranji Trophy, demonstrating his unwavering dedication to the sport he cherishes. Despite facing setbacks, Vikram Raj Vir Singh continues to leave his mark on the cricketing landscape.
Tinu, a talented young bowler, earned his place in the national squad in December 2001. He made a memorable debut in test cricket by dismissing both English openers, garnering praise from all quarters. However, despite featuring in an equal number of ODIs and Tests, his inconsistent form led to his exclusion from the squad. Despite efforts to reclaim his position, Tinu gradually faded into the background. It was only in 2009 that he resurfaced, joining the IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Deep Dasgupta, a talented wicketkeeper-batsman, showcased great potential during his domestic cricket career. Making his debut for India in 2001 against South Africa, he demonstrated his capabilities by scoring a century that saved India from a potential loss. However, despite this early success, Dasgupta struggled to maintain consistency at the international level. He later went on to represent the Indian Cricket League team, the Royal Bengal Tigers.
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Salil Ankola is a former Indian cricketer who played as a fast bowler for the Indian national team in the 1990s.
Salil Ankola is known for his cricketing career as a pace bowler, representing India in both Test matches and One Day Internationals. Additionally, he has also ventured into the entertainment industry, working as an actor and television personality.
Salil Ankola, Akash Chopra, Sridharan Sriram are some of the forgotten Indian cricketers.
Several factors contribute to cricketers being forgotten, including the emergence of new talents, lack of consistent performances, limited opportunities, or overshadowing by more popular players.
Some forgotten cricketers have transitioned into coaching, commentary, or administrative roles in cricket. Their experience and knowledge continue to contribute to the development of the sport.