HARD DONE BY? Narendra Hirwani makes a point at his residence in Indore yesterday. Pics: Suresh KK, MiD DAY ArchivesIndore: One expected Narendra Hirwani to be at the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium yesterday. Kumbles hunger for wickets is amazing
He had good reason to be there to catch up with former teammates; offer some views to a large media contingent and probably even bowl in the nets.
But the just-retired former MP and India cricketer preferred to stay home and supervise renovation work at his 11-ASH Sukhaliya residence in Indore. Hiru wont be at todays game either.
Probably, he is too hurt by the fact that he deserved to play more for the country. Maybe he does not have the time and inclination.
But surely he has had enough of it after 22 years of first-class cricket which fetched him 732 scalps in 167 games. Besides, a long first-class career, Hirwanis claim to fame is his 16 wickets on Test debut against Viv Richardss West Indians at Chennai in 87-88.
He equalled Australias Bob Massie debut tally achieved in the Lords Test of the 1972 Ashes. The 38-year-old tweaker ended up with 66 wickets in 17 Tests. Mid Day dropped by his home to talk to him about his eventful past and an exciting future in cricket coaching.
It all started in 1984
I left my home in Gorakhpur to pursue a dream, which was to play for India. On one of my junior tours to Indore with the Uttar Pradesh team, I liked what I saw here. I needed better opportunities so I decided to come to Indore where I would play for a weaker team but face stronger opposition.
Left with a promise
When I left home, I told my folks that I will not return till I play first-class cricket..
I stayed in a small room near airport for the first few years in Indore and used to cycle all the way to the Nehru Stadium for practice.
I used to cover 60-70 kms everyday. I had Ramu (See pic on next page) for company. He worked in my family home and my parents asked him to accompany and look after me.
He is three to four years elder to me. He became my friend and now works in this house.
Worth the weight
When I first met my coach and guru Sanjay Jagdale (current national selector), he said I was too overweight to become a cricketer. Then, Mr Aibara, who had done a lot of coaching here, put in a good word. I joined Sirs nets and promised to work towards my fitness.
I soon lost 23 kgs. Jagdale Sir is one of the best human beings Ive met. When the guru is so great how can the pupil be bad? (laughs).
Narendra Hirwanis 16-wicket haul on debut is still a world recordRoom No 6
I managed to get a room at the Indore Stadium Room No 6, how can I ever forget that number? It is bitterly cold in winters here and I did not have much protection. I started doing skipping exercises to keep myself warm. I trained for most of the day. Watching me work out, people started calling me a hamaal (porter).
And when I said Im training hard to play for India, they started calling me paagal.
Oh, what a debut
How can I forget that moment. I was young, raw but Ravi Shastri (stand-in captain for Vengsarkar) gave the ball to me and said, you are a Raja and you can do wonders with this ball in your hand. Go ahead and get your wickets. And I did just that. No words are enough for Shastri. It is a pity that he led India in only one Test. My success under him continued as we won the Sharjah tournament in 88.
Honour all the way
To play in a team consisting my boyhood heroes was a huge honour. I literally used to pinch myself and say, are you really playing with all these guys? I remember having a huge Kapil poster in my room.
Kapil, the great soul
The MP chief minister allotted me this plot of land for my 16 wickets on debut. I built my house and Kapil Dev came for house-warming just as he promised. He sat near the pooja fire for an hour. He loves me dearly and calls me regularly. When he learnt about my retirement, he called to say that he was proud of me and I had done something in cricket. It was a great feeling.
I had my share of troubles and insecurity. But I was very determined to play for India again (he was dropped after a disappointing tour of Australia in 1991-92). I kept getting wickets in first-class cricket. The only person whom I could talk to freely about my troubles was my wife.
Our conversations stretched well beyond midnight. And we used to say, even our unborn son would hear what we are saying. Today, Mihir (11) is a leg-spinner just like me.
THE REWARDS: Narendra Hirwani poses with his man-of-the-match trophiesMihir and more
I want Mihir to achieve what I couldnt and carry with him all my good qualities and he is doing that. I was very poor in studies but Mihir is a brilliant student despite his cricketing activities. He is under me at the CCI (Cricket Club of Indore) nets. He suffered a foot injury after he stepped on a stone and lost his balance.
His leg is in a cast now so his cricket is on hold. He never played with any toy but when he first held a ball, he did it with a spinners grip. It made me so happy and I asked my wife whether there such a thing as cricket in ones blood.
Got the recall
They recalled me for the series against New Zealand in 1995-96 and I claimed the man-of-the-match award in the Cuttack Test. I went on the 1996 tour of England with Sandeep Patil as coach. Sandeep knew what I was capable of because he was my captain in his stint with MP. I remember telling somebody in the team before the last Test of that series, play me and I will get you wickets. But I was not picked. It hurt.
I played the Ahmedabad Test of the home series against South Africa and claimed the wickets of Hansie Cronje and that stubborn wicketkeeper-batsman Dave Richardson. We won and I was dropped after the second Test in Kolkata.
Lifes worst moment
I was picked in the conditioning camp for the home series against Australia in 2000-01 and after being impressive in the nets, Sourav Ganguly (captain) came to me and said that I will be playing all the Tests. I was delighted. I was picked in the squad for the Mumbai Test but they left me out of the eleven. Rahul Sanghvi played alongwith Harbhajan Singh.
That was the worst moment of my life. I remember standing up and speaking up at the team meetings. When the Australian batsmen were coming hard at us, I suggested we change our line of attack. I told Harbhajan that he should go round the wicket and it helped.
You know what he did to the Australians in that series (Harbhajan got 32 wickets). Harbhajan is a great exponent of off-spin. He is an artist and is always finding ways to improve his bowling. Ive told him a few things but I dont want to get into that in great detail.
HAPPY FAMILY: Narendra Hirwani with wife Namita, son Mihir, daughter Anushka and RamuOuch, that hurt
When I put my head on the pillow at night I think about how I could have done more with my ability. Not playing for India for an extended period hurts. I am a very emotional person. The fact is that I missed out. They did not pick me when I could have been a success.
When John Wright met me in Leeds 2002, he took me to his hotel room and had a long chat with me. He also told me how I could get back into reckoning for the next series against the West Indies. The call did not come. Those who did this to me cannot look me in the eyes again.
And in the Board Presidents XI vs Australia tour game in Delhi, I claimed eight Australian wickets. I showed what I could do.
Why I continued
I did not give up playing domestic cricket because I am passionate about this game. Give me a cricket ball and I am happy. How can you give up something when all your life you have dreamt of is just playing cricket. I informed the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association before the season that this would be my last year for them.
And when I had played my last match I came back to my room and wept like a kid all night. I used to have tears in my eyes even when I used to drive Mihir for nets. I remember telling him that it is all going to end for papa very soon. And he would cry on the way to the ground too.
Oh those detractors
Those who say that I lost my bite because I was not quicker through the air should go and check my record. Have I taken 700 wickets just like that? What nonsense! Remember I was playing first-class cricket against the best players of spin in the world.
No spinners now...
One-day cricket is ruining spin bowling. With only ten overs at their dismissal, bowlers are waiting for batsmen to make mistakes when the key objective should be attack from ball one.
Anil Kumble played his first Test against England in 1990 with me as the senior spinner. Frankly, I did not think then that he will emerge an all-time great.
He has the ability but he also has a very, very strong mind and that is an important part of his success story. He expects to take a wicket off every ball. That's where his greatness lies. His hunger for wickets is amazing.