Dilip Doshi, born 22 December, 1947, was one of India’s finest spinners who remained on the fringes for quite some time, thanks to India’s spin army back then. Karthik Parimal looks back at the career of this masterly spinner who made his debut for India at the age of 32.
Four decades ago, if the West Indians were well-known for churning out a battery of fast bowlers, India was famous for its spin quartet. Bishan Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Srinivas Venkataraghavan and Bhagwat Chandrasekar were all a force to reckon with on the big stage. During this phase, spinners on the fringe in India — many of who could have been a regular feature in most of the other teams — never managed to make the cut, thanks to the extraordinary levels of standards set. Names such as Rajinder Goel, Padmakar Shivalkar and Rajinder Hans fall into that category.
However, there was a certain slow left-arm orthodox bowler who broke the shackles and donned the national colours after some remarkable performances in First-Class cricket. At the age of 32, Dilip Doshi, who was widely respected in the county circuit by then, played his first Test for India. On a placid Chennai track and against a formidable Australia unit, Doshi scalped six wickets after he was the fifth bowler to be used. Venkataraghavan, who was the other spinner in the side, rarely caused the Australian batsmen to flinch during that match, and it was Doshi’s spell that sent their middle-order into a tizzy.
Albeit being on the wrong side of the age as a debutant, Doshi subtly grabbed the opportunity and finished with figures of six for 103 in his very first outing. His orthodoxy and flawless bowling technique can be attributed to his priceless stint at Warwickshire. Australian journalist Gideon Haigh aptly summed up Doshi’s bowling when he wrote, “Although Doshi could turn the ball appreciable distance in responsive conditions, what left the strongest impression was how long he could make it hang in the air, as though suspended in a cobweb.” Although he was in the reckoning for quite some time before being picked to represent India, the wait was worth it in the end.
One might think that a five-wicket haul against a good side like Australia on debut would undoubtedly be a bowler’s finest performance, but Doshi ranks his three for 109 against the same opponents at Melbourne his best. “I had a fractured toe but I decided to play. Every evening I had to have electrodes clipped to my foot; they gave painful shocks but kept the swelling down. The next morning I would put the foot in a bucket of ice so I could get it into the boot. Very few understood why I did all that. I did it because I believed we were going to win and I had a part to play,” Doshi recalled. India indeed went on to win that closely-fought Test by a margin of 59 runs, and Doshi grabbed two more wickets in the second innings to complete yet another five-wicket haul.
Having made most of his limited opportunities, Doshi is one of the only two bowlers to have taken over Test 100 wickets after having made his debut post the age of thirty. The other is Australian cricketer Clarrie Grimmett, considered by many as the developer of flipper. For Doshi, Grimmett remains his favourite spin bowler that he didn’t watch.
Doshi’s bowling was considered top notch by many of his stalwart contemporaries. Apparently, Greg Chappell walked off flummoxed but impressed by one of Doshi’s deliveries that got the better off him. West Indian legendary all-rounder Garry Sobers too shook Doshi’s hand once after the latter had taken seven wickets in a county game for Nottinghamshire and said, “Well done, son, you’re all right.” It is unfortunate that Doshi played just 33 Tests for India, however, it must be remembered that he was overshadowed by none other than the mighty Bedi. Nevertheless, he finished with 114 wickets to his name.
It is said that Doshi’s career hit a roadblock not due to below-par performances, but because of his differences with the skipper. “Sunil Gavaskar was a master batsman; there are not many like him. But we didn’t see eye to eye on many occasions, and he was my captain. A bowler can be as good as his captain wants him to be or can make him out to be,” said Doshi in one of his interviews. There weren’t many words of praise for his captain in his autobiography Spin Punch either.
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)