It was just a few months ago that Ankeet Chavan touched the highest point of his professional career, claiming the best bowling figures by a Mumbai player in an innings — 9/23 against Punjab.
That had preceded five years of strife in the periphery of the Ranji team. And it helped land a contract with Rajasthan Royals. He played in only three matches, the last of which got him embroiled in one of the biggest spot-fixing scandals in Indian cricket.
However, it has surprised people who have known him for long. Some former teammates rate Chavan as one of the most sincere cricketers.
“He was a very genuine person. Before a match he would be tense and not talk a lot. He would practice for two hours in the nets. It is shocking to say the least. I do not believe Chavan could ever be involved,” his Mumbai Ranji team-mate, who is also playing in the T20 league, said on condition of anonymity.
Born in a middle class Maharashtrian family in Mumbai, he grew up playing cricket in the by-lanes of Mahim's City light area, a quiet neighbourhood. Chavan’s father, who owned a small marble trading business, sent his nine-year-old son to the MIG club, where Sandeep Patil was among those who trained him.
It was here that Chavan picked up left-arm spin. He made it to the Mumbai under-19, under-22 and eventually the senior Ranji side and also clinched a playing contract with Air India, where he played alongside Ajit Chandila.
An Air India teammate of the players said: “At Air India, we would only have a few days with each other. The time there would be spent in talking about the game but one never thought anything like this would happen.”