One opened the batting aggressively, the other caused damage to the opposition with the new ball. Here’s why Mumbai’s Sudhakar Adhikari and Maharashtra’s Sadanand Mohol, who passed away last week, deserved an India Test cap, which they missed out on
Sudhakar Adhikari (left) File pic and Sadanand Mohol. Pic/Getty Images
In the space of a couple of days last week, two domestic cricket stalwarts made their way to Elysian Fields. Sudhakar Adhikari, the former Mumbai opening batsman, passed away in the city on Friday at the age of 82. The following day, Maharashtra’s swing bowling exponent Sadanand Mohol, 83, breathed his last in Pune.
Their careers ran parallel for a while and both deserved an India Test cap. Adhikari scored a mountain of runs in first-class cricket and must rank as one of the most unfortunate of Mumbai batsmen in that era not to find favour with the national selection committee, mostly headed by M Datta Ray in the 1960s (1963-64 to 1967-68).
The same committee picked Mohol for the 1967 tour of England, but a leg injury early on the tour meant he couldn’t be part of the Test series which ended 3-0 in England’s favour.
A year earlier, while opening the bowling for Indian Board President’s XI against Maharashtra Small Savings Minister’s and Life Insurance Company’s Chairman’s Combined XI in a first-class fixture at Club of Maharashtra, Pune, Mohol claimed four wickets in four balls. His victims were Ajit Wadekar, Adhikari, MS Gupte and ML Jaisimha.
MAK Pataudi reportedly said in his pre-tour press conference that Mohol could be the team’s main bowler if he adapts to English conditions. As it turned out, Mohol played only seven out of the 20 games on the tour and claimed 12 wickets, the only one from the 16-man England tour party to return home without playing a Test.
Vijay Bhosale, the formidable middle-order batsman, who played with and against Mohol in the Ranji Trophy, recalled that his close friend was a dangerous bowler especially on matting pitches. “We were all disappointed to hear about what happened to him on the 1967 England tour. He was good enough to be part of the Tests. I will remember him as a loyal friend, who used to accompany me on my league cricket tours to England. And he was one bowler, who the strong Mumbai team were always wary of,” Bhosale told me from Auckland.
Baroda, Maharashtra and Mumbai-capped Bhosale’s views on Mohol’s proficiency in bowling on matting tracks are complemented by what sports writer Sharad Kotnis wrote in the 1967 edition of Indian Cricket annual, which had Mohol as one of their five cricketers of the year: “Mohol’s deadly accuracy on matting wickets is proved beyond doubt in Maharashtra’s two clashes with star-studded Bombay in 1964-65 and 1966-67. When the Maharashtra-Bombay tie is played at the Brabourne Stadium, Mohol is hit all over the place, but in the two clashes mentioned above at Satara and Aurangabad on matting wickets, Mohol had sweet revenge. It was his quick breakthrough at the start and then the accuracy with the old ball that prevented Bombay from taking the first innings lead over Maharashtra on both occasions.”
The Brabourne clash which Kotnis was referring to, was the 1965-66 one which also featured Adhikari, who smashed 110 on Day One. Mumbai took first innings honours in the drawn game, but Mohol struck three quick blows (Engineer, Adhikari and Vasu Paranjape) on the final day to have Mumbai reeling at 32-3 before the hosts ended the encounter with 156-4.
Farokh Engineer and Adhikari joined forces for some memorable partnerships. At the Eden Gardens in the 1962-63 Ranji Trophy semi-final against Bengal, the duo put on 269 for the first wicket in response to Bengal’s first innings score of 322. Reputed writer Berry Sarbadhikary waxed eloquent in his piece for the 1963-64 Indian Cricket Field Annual: “Farokh Engineer assaulted the Bengal bowling—depleted by Lester King [one of the four West Indian fast bowlers deputed for domestic cricket in India] straining a thigh muscle in his second over—with such gay abandon that he completed his century in two hours, with a six and l5 fours. Although Adhikari also attacked the bowling, his batting looked pedestrian in comparison with Engineer’s. Engineer enjoyed two lives and Adhikari was let off once, but these chances should not detract from their superb performances, which for entertainment value, are rarely matched these days.”
If Adhikari’s blade often turned out to be punitive, making the lives of bowlers miserable, he was fun-loving off the field. His Shivaji Park Gymkhana and Mumbai colleague Chandrakant Patankar, the former Test wicketkeeper, said he was a prankster, who lightened up the dressing room. “He had all the shots and was a livewire in the dressing room. He should have played for India,” Patankar told me on Monday.
Adhikari’s best score under a Mumbai cap was his 192 against Maharashtra at Pune in 1961-62, but he would have rated his 150 for CCI President’s XI against International XI at the Brabourne Stadium in April 1962 very highly. The opposition attack comprised Test men Harold Rhodes (England), Richie Benaud, Ian Meckiff and Bob Simpson (Australia) and Sonny Ramadhin (West Indies). In his book on Mumbai cricket, former first-class player Vilas Godbole recalled how Adhikari’s six off Benaud landed in the CCI parking lot in that match.
Simpson had seen Adhikari score consistently on CCI’s tour of Australia earlier that year and on his 1964-65 Test trip to India, he expressed his surprise over Adhikari not being in the India Test team by then.
Adhikari is fondly remembered in Mumbai cricket for arriving at the Brabourne Stadium for a Ranji Trophy match a little after his wedding ceremony. He hit a hundred and rushed back for the reception.
Both men fought hard and lived a full life; took setbacks in their stride and put a smile on people’s faces. Our heroes, even if unsung.
mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance.
He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.