Dodda Ganesh, born June 30, 1973, was one of Karnataka’s finest bowlers, but only made a fleeting appearance on the international stage. Karthik Parimal looks back at the career of this domestic stalwart.
In the second half of the 1990s, Karnataka churned out more bowlers for India than any other region. The likes of Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad and Anil Kumble, to name a few, were mainstays in the Indian bowling line-up and, understandably, were first-choice bowlers for their state too, but there were others like Sunil Joshi, David Johnson, Vijay Bharadwaj and Dodda Ganesh. That attack explains Karnataka’s success in the Ranji Trophy during the aforesaid period — they were victorious in 1995-96, 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons — and it left many other good bowlers on the fringes. However, some managed to make the cut despite the high level of standards set; Dodda Ganesh certainly belonged to that bracket.
Despite starting out as a wicket-keeper batsman, it didn’t take long for Ganesh to shine as a bowler, thanks to the legendary Gundappa Viswanath, who recognised his latent potential. His skills were further sharpened in First-Class cricketer-turned-umpire AV Jayaprakash‘s training camp and he was soon drafted into the Karnataka side thereafter, where he gained an opportunity to rub shoulders with the best in the world. Sharing a dressing room with some of India’s finest players quickly propelled him to the next level. But on hindsight, one feels that perhaps the transition should have been delayed a bit.
Running in with ball close to his chest and delivering it with an orthodox action that angled in towards the batsman, Ganesh caught the eye of many in the domestic circuit despite being surrounded by stalwarts himself. If his intentions were to try and impress his high-profile team-mates, he did a fine job of that. Soon, some of the other Indian batsmen would face Ganesh and witness his rise from close quarters.
A topsy-turvy ride
In the 1996 Irani Trophy, Ganesh bagged 11 wickets (six for 84 and five for 89), including some of India’s frontline batsmen like Navjot Sidhu and VVS Laxman (twice) which shot him to limelight. He was immediately on the radar of the national selectors and received a call up for India’s tour of South Africa in 1997. Despite the bowling line-up being stacked, Ganesh’s medium-pace was given priority. It was a moment he would have expected to meet a little later in his cricketing career, but the powers that otherwise.
Ganesh boarded the flight to wear the India cap. However, once there, the demands of international cricket swiftly brought him down to earth. In the two Tests, he bowled 43 overs and took one wicket at an average of 165. He was a novice with the bat and did little to prove otherwise in that department. Soon after the tour of South Africa, in what was to be his only One-Day International (ODI) against Zimbabwe, he conceded 20 runs for a wicket in his five overs.
Lacklustre performances notwithstanding, he was retained for the upcoming tour of West Indies. He played two of the five Tests, one of them featuring India’s collapse while chasing a modest total of 120, and tasted little success. He finished with match-figures of four for 98, but the outing was clearly insipid. After that, Ganesh donned the Indian cap just once, in the final Test at Georgetown, before being duly dropped. Thereafter, he never staged a comeback.
Perhaps, like Kumble had stated, Ganesh was too raw when he made his international debut. In an interview to ESPN Cricinfo, the latter concurred with the former’s observation. “Everything was new to me, the flight journey, the five-star hotels, the country [South Africa], and the whole touring. I was bit overwhelmed,” Ganesh said. But, the confidence he gained from being a part of an international unit was reflected when he went back to the domestic scene.
With a young breed of Indian bowlers emerging from other regions, Ganesh’s hopes of returning to the international fold slowly faded. However, the fact that Srinath, Prasad and Kumble were away on national duty for most part of the year meant that Ganesh took over the mantle for Karnataka. He delivered on a consistent basis, his 20 First-Class five-wicket hauls is a testimony to that fact, and stood up for the team. Although a mug with the bat, he scored an unbeaten 18 in a last-wicket stand that saw Karnataka trump Hyderabad in the semi-final of the 1998 Ranji Trophy. They went on to win the title that year.
By the time he called it quits from all forms of cricket in 2007, Ganesh had 365 First-Class wickets to his name. His contributions were rightfully applauded, by former and current greats, for his services were tireless. “I always put my state first and only then me. Karnataka cricket gave everything that I owe today and I am grateful for all the help from various quarters,” he stated in that interview.
Although politics managed to grab his attention, his love for cricket never vanished. He was roped in as Goa’s coach for the 2012 Ranji Trophy.
(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 )
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