Cricket

A dropped catch and a doomed career

Sanjeev Sharma remembers the course of the ball vividly. It left Graham Gooch late, took the edge and flew to wicketkeeper Kiran More. In that one moment, a lot happened. More grassed the offering, Gooch, then on 36, survived to hit a triple century and Sanjeev sunk into oblivion at the end of the match.

The Lord’s Test during India’s 1990 tour to England had many momentous stages. A captivating century by Mohammad Azharuddin in one session; Kapil Dev hoisting Eddie Hemmings for four sixes off four balls to help India avoid the follow on; and the awe-inspiring knock by Gooch.

“I was heart-broken,” remembered Sanjeev. It was an understatement because he paid a heavy price as Gooch went on a rampage. “Catch being dropped is part of the game. I have no complaints. I had him (Gooch). I don’t know why I was enjoying bowling to him. The conditions were good. Lord’s motivates you once you step on to that hallowed turf. I was inspired too.”

Etched in mind

Sanjeev was bowling a probing spell. There was bounce. And there was that late swing which can unnerve the best of batsmen. “It is etched in my mind. Gooch went to play the ball to the on-side. It moved just a bit. I knew I had him in my trap but sadly the chance did not become a wicket,” said Sanjeev.

“The ball died on me,” responded More, who was also devastated by the fact that he had dropped a regulation catch. “In England you get tested because the ball moves around a lot. I had this catch covered well but, believe me, it wobbled just as I closed my gloves on the ball. I felt sad for Sanjeev too. He was bowling exceptionally well, I remember.”

Sanjeev remembered too. “I had played four or five tour matches before the Test and was well prepared. But that one moment harmed my cricket. After Gooch got the reprieve, the weather changed in a flash and the ball stopped swinging. It was Gooch’s bat that swung as he plundered runs at will. After the Test was lost, India played at Old Trafford and the Oval, two venues where the ball swings a lot. But the team management preferred spinners.”

Often cricketers talk of the luck factor. Sanjeev was unlucky. So was K. Jayantilal on India’s 1971 tour to the West Indies. He fell to a spectacular catch by Gary Sobers, who, in the next match, dropped Sunil Gavaskar twice. Jayantilal faded away, while Gavaskar went on to rule the cricket world.

What if Sobers had dropped that catch, or More had held his? Jayantilal never played Test cricket again. Neither did Sanjeev Sharma.




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