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'Ganguly and I can't see eye to eye'

A former Indian spinner says Ganguly ditched him after promising to play him in all 3 Tests against Australia in 2001.

india Updated: Apr 18, 2006 04:19 IST

Ex-India leg-spinner Narendra Hirwani says that former captain Sourav Ganguly ditched him after promising to play him in all three Tests against Australia in 2001 when he was trying to stage a comeback.

Hirwani, who took a world-record 16 wickets on Test debut in 1988, was called for a two-day trial in Mumbai before the first Test against Australia and stunned everyone, including Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, with his penetrative bowling at the nets before the match.

"Before the team for the first Test was announced, Ganguly told me that I would play all three Tests, leave alone worrying about selection (for just one Test)," Hirwani told in an interview.

"But for some reason I wasn't picked. Then, coach John Wright told me that I would be playing the second Test (in Kolkata). I was again not picked," said the 37-year-old Indore-based spinner who retired this February after 22 years of first-class cricket.

Then, Hirwani, one of most prolific wicket takers in domestic cricket, was dropped from the third Test in Chennai of a series that India won 2-1 to stun world champions Australia.

After being ignored for the first Test in Mumbai and before the second Test, Hirwani was picked for the Board President's XI against the Australians in a three-day game in Delhi where the squad for the second Test in Kolkata was to be announced.

Hirwani took eight wickets in the match, but to his misfortune the squad was surprisingly announced on the second day itself, after Hirwani had taken three wickets in the first innings. He was not selected.

"I earned those eight wickets - they were not gifted to me -- and everyone was surprised (by my good bowling)," he said.

Asked how Ganguly could give an assurance of picking him in the team when there were five selectors, the Hirwani said: "It is because it's the captain who picks the playing eleven."

Hirwani, who was born in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, is angry with Ganguly for not living up to his words.

"No one told me why I was not picked. Ganguly can't see me in the eyes today. They should have at least given me a chance to fail!" he said sitting in his house in Sukhliya Gram.

Incidentally, Hirwani's coach-cum-mentor-cum-guide Sanjay Jagdale was at the time one of the national selectors who was supposed to take up the cases of central zone players as per the perceived notion. But the humble Hirwani defends Jagdale.

"He was my guru, how could he speak? It was for others (selectors) to speak for me. He is such an honest person, I can't complain," said Hirwani about a man whom he had approached for guidance and coaching when he left Gorakhpur and settled down in Indore as a 16-year-old in 1984.

"I didn't have the guts to ask him why I was not picked because I come from a family where I was taught that one should argue with one's guru or elders," he stressed.

Hirwani, who is now taking up coaching and television assignments full time, burst on the international firmament with an amazing world-record 16 wickets against the West Indies in Chennai in 1988. India won and Hirwani was adjudged the Man of the Match.

A combination of shabby treatment from selectors over the years and a few injuries, more than lack of performances, ensured that the hard-working Hirwani played only 17 Tests (66 wickets) and 18 one-day internationals (23 wickets) between 1988 and 1996.

He feels that coming from a weak state, Madhya Pradesh, contributed to this, otherwise he says he was worth many more matches and wickets.

"Of course, I had more potential than the number of wickets I took. I feel I only exhibited only 10 or 15 percent of my true potential. I was very hungry. My dream of taking wickets and winning matches for India were very big," he said.

Hirwani said that taking 16 wickets on debut became disadvantageous for him as people had started expecting too much from him every time he stepped on to the field.

In 167 first-class matches, Hirwani took 732 wickets and another 75 scalps in 70 limited overs matches, leaving an indelible stamp.