Ex-India left-arm spinner, 49, recalls feat on 25th anniversary of the India v Sri Lanka Colombo Test
Former India left-arm spinner Nilesh Kulkarni (extreme left), ex-BCCI Chief Administrative Officer Prof Ratnakar Shetty and former India pacer and BCCI's General Manager Abey Kuruvilla at the International Institute of Sports Management function in Marol yesterday. Pic: Subodh Mayure
It's 25 years since India left-arm spinner Nilesh Kulkarni bowled his first ball in Test cricket and claimed a wicket on it. At a function to mark the occasion, the tall tweaker called it a magical moment, achieved in the Colombo Test of the 1997 series. On Wednesday, Kulkarni was accompanied by then India team manager Prof Ratnakar Shetty and teammate Abey Kuruvilla at the function organised by the students of International Institute of Sports Management, of which Kulkarni is founder director.
Captain Sachin Tendulkar declared India’s first innings at 537-8 after Navjot Sidhu (111), Tendulkar (143) and Mohammed Azharuddin (126) scored centuries on Day Two at the R Premadasa Stadium. Kulkarni got the opportunity to bowl the last over of the day. He recalled: “I was not prepared and my mind was completely switched off from thinking of bowling.” But he became India’s first and only bowler — and the 15th in world cricket — to take a wicket off the very first ball in Test cricket when he dismissed Sri Lanka opener Marvan Atapattu [on 26], caught by wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia.
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“When Sachin told me to come and bowl, all my stretching happened in like five seconds. I was only thinking, ‘God…land the ball in the right area. Do not embarrass yourself’ because in the past, a few cricketers have embarrassed themselves on the first ball. The last thing on my mind was to take a wicket on the first ball. And as luck would have it, it all happened like a miracle, a magical moment,” Kulkarni told moderator Devendra Prabhudesai.
However, the remaining three days of the game constituted a forgettable experience for the Indian bowling attack as Sri Lanka amassed 952-6 declared. Sanath Jayasuriya scored 340, while Roshan Mahanama and Aravinda de Silva helped themselves to 225 and 126 respectively. Kuruvilla revealed what Team India were thinking after Atapattu’s wicket: "We wanted to score runs quickly and declare — bowl them [SL] out and win the match outright. That was our plan." Kulkarni returned figures of 1 for 195 as the match ended in a draw just like the second and final Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club at Colombo.