Every team goes through a period of transition when there is a change of guard between the generations. It is during such a period debuts are handed for every domestic giant. The players may come into reckoning even with one season of good performance. Australia and Srilanka right now are into such a period and India is likely to enter such a phase in the next year or two.
Last time when the team was under such a transition phase was in the nineties when the side experimented every option to get a strong team. Between the 1996 World Cup and Ganguly’s era setting the world on fire with an astounding series win over Waugh’s Invincibles the side went through a state of experimentation with few players forming the nucleus of the side. With Tendulkar at helm and Ganguly, Dravid, Kumble and Srinath being the first choice picks, there were too many debuts in Team India as they tried to get a bowling line up during the injuries to first choice players. Also the search for elusive allrounder, proper test match opener, wicket keeper and few easy series meant there was a club of players who just made it there without being able to sustain for a substantial period. Here is a look on a XI formed by them – Nearly Men of Nineties.
The opener from Bengal made a grand debut against Newzeland in 1999 forging two century partnerships with Sadagopan Ramesh. He had the technique to pile on in the Indian pitches. Having been a regular in Bengal side, he was among the consistent run getters in Ranji matches with even a triple hundred. But the subsequent tour of Down Under exposed his inadequacy and he was soon out of the side. He managed 4 tests and 3 ODIs in all.
A lanky opener from Rajasthan, Khoda was a prodigy from age cricket before he established himself as a dependent batsman. He was handled a debut in Coca Cola Series in 1998 involving Kenya and Bangladesh. He made a spectacular 89 guiding India home in his only second and last match. However with an ordinary series for half strength Indian team in Commonwealth Games 1998 and presence of Tendulkar and Ganguly as openers, shut his career with just two matches. But he is among the successful experiments but was unlucky to miss out. However the domestic bowlers continued to get punished by him for long since then.
Left handed middle order batsman from Madhya Pradesh broke into the Indian team with the potential to be a quick scorer against Srilanka in 1999. He was found out by his inadequate foot work and weaker technique. He was in the squad for World Cup 1999. He later made a comeback in 2001 only to fail again. Once again, he was a domestic hero with brilliant career. He ended playing 12 ODIs in all.
An allrounder from Uttar Pradesh, the southpaw Pandey graduated from a bowling allrounder to consistent batsman. He got into the side with successful domestic season in 1999. Pit in against the ramapage Pakistan side with an attack of Akram, Younis, Akram, Saqlain and Akthar no wonder the domestic giant was found wanting and got out of the reckoning. He managed to serve Uttar Pradesh playing a pivotal role for their title triumph in 2006. He played 2 ODIs in all.
Son of former Ranji player and senior of Gavaskar in Bombay side – Vasu Paranjpe, Jatin lived up to his father’s name with successful career for Bombay during the nineties. He along with Muzumdar was the backbone of the side in absence of Tendulkar and Kambli with national duties. Paranjpe was in the national side in Coca Cola Cup and managed to play against Pakistan in Toronto 1998 when Indian team was cleaved between Canada and Malaysia. However an injury and ordinary season ahead restricted his career to just 4 ODIs.
The wicket keeper from Andhra was credible to break into the squad in 1999. He was among the half dozen keepers tried between Mongia’s dropping and Dhoni establishing himself. He got into the side with Mongia’s injury in 1999 post World Cup. Though competent with the gloves, his batting failed him. With India looking to their keeper being a keeper-batsman, he was dropped within just 6 tests and 17 ODIs by the end of Australia tour in 2000.
With impressive allrounder talent for Orissa, Raul made initially into the India A tour to Pakistan and was fast tracked to the Indian side in 1998 when there was split of the sides between Toronto and Kualalumpur. His successful series in 1996 and 1997 in Domestic tournaments and subsequent India A tour made handed him a worth debut. But alien conditions and impressive attack found him short and he was soon dumped. He did serve Orissa for long. He was another player with just 2 ODIs in his kitty.
The left arm tweaker from Mumbai, he was a workhorse for the champion outfit in Ranji Trophy. Probably the highest spinner for India, he had ability to utilize his 6’4 height to his aid. He had a sensational start to his career being the only Indian to take wicket of his first ball in tests when he dismissed Attapattu in Colombo, 1997. This however led to the second highest partnership in cricket between Jayasuriya and Mahanama who pummelled the Indian attack. After being dropped, he came back for the final test of epic India Australia series 2001 which was his last test too. He also managed 10 ODIs. He ended his career with 357 FC wickets though.
A Legend in Ranji Trophy, speedster from Karnataka held their attack through nineties and noughties when the side had Kumble, Srinath and Prassad in the national team. Equipped with an ability to bowl his heart out on docile pitches and more than a few variations in his kitty, Ganesh debuted in 1997 against Zimbabwe and later went on to play 4 tests against Australia and West Indies. However he was unable to effect transition to international cricket and was left out. He did manage to top the bowlers’ charts in domestic season for more than a season or two.
Robin Singh (Junior)
Delhi lad was known as Robin Singh junior since by the time he came into the national scene, his namesake was an established allrounder. Fiercely competitive and a bowler who can hit good speeds, he made into the Indian squad for Newzeland tour circa 1999 with some fruitful domestic performances. His solitary test for India brought him 3 wickets. However inconsistent selection system came as his nemesis and he was dumped with just single appearance. He toiled for Delhi and managed a decent average in his career.
He was the part of Banglore Brigade in Indian team which at one time represented as much as 9 players with international career. Johnson formed an All Karnatak attack in his second test with Srinath, Prasad and Kumble at Durban. He had earlier had a debut at Kotla against the Australians in 1996. His inconsistent line and length cut short his place in national squad. He formed a potent new ball pair with Ganesh for Karnataka side in the absence of Indian regulars – Srinath and Prasad.
Apart from these XI which I selected to get a balanced line up, there were indeed a host of players who made it into the squad but fumbled. All of them had a long fruitful domestic career though. Vikram Rathore, Sujith Somasunder, Noel David, Debashish Mohanty, Harvinder Singh, Sairaj Bahuthule, Vijay Bharadwaj, Sadagopan Ramesh, Sridharan Sriram, Vijay Dahiya, Deepdas Gupta, Shiv Sundar Das, Hemang Badani, Reetinder Singh Sodhi, Sunil Joshi, Tinu Yohannan, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Nikhil Chopra, Raghul Sanghvi, Iqbal Siddiqui were just a few of the pack of Indian who were tested before a stable lineup with Sehwag, Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Kaif, Zaheer and Nehra established itself with the Fab Five of Tendulkar, Kumble, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman under Ganguly’s leadership taking India to the next level. While we laud these guys for making our time strong, let us spare a thought for the former mentioned “Nearly Men of Nineties”.