At the end of the last domestic season, it was feared Hrishikesh Kanitkar, one of the most prolific batsmen and leader, would be remembered only for his match-winning last-ball boundary off Pakistan's Saqlain Mushtaq in the Independence Cup final in Dhaka way back in 1998.
Kanitkar, who parted ways with his home team Maharashtra after 2007-08, had failed to notch a century for three seasons and also narrowly failed to help Madhya Pradesh, his adopted team, progress from Plate to Super League.
Then, just after the Pune southpaw finished the Level A course at the National Cricket Academy, he was approached by the Rajasthan Cricket Asociation. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Kanitkar led Rajasthan's surge from the bottom-placed Plate team to Ranji Trophy champions, thus becoming probably the only captain to have lifted the Plate (for Maharashtra in 2003-04) and Super League title.
"When we beat Maharashtra in the Plate semifinals, we had achieved our objective of making Super League. Anything after that was a bonus for us," Kanitkar, 36, told Hindustan Times. Then came the quarterfinal against Mumbai, the 39-times champions against whom Kanitkar's mettle was tested time and again during his stint with Maharashtra.
"Mumbai is a tremendously strong team, so I told the boys the result should not matter, just play to your potential. When we got the first innings lead, I realised that wasn't enough. Mumbai can come back anytime," Kanitkar said. "I have seen it throughout my career because they play a lot of games like this, where they are challenged."
Kanitkar has not only shed the tag of having reached the fag end of his career but also stamped his authority as a leader. "I've always been approachable. When someone needed my advice I was open to go to him directly and tell him. I was not bothered whether he accepted it or not."
Probably that's why he decided to try his hand at coaching, first with a course at the NCA and then joining the Kochi IPL team as the player-cum-assistant coach.