Rishikesh-Kanitkar

Hrishikesh Kanitkar, born November 14, 1974, is a former Indian cricketer who represented the national team in the late 90s. A left-handed middle-order batsman and a useful off-spinner, Kanitkar represented India in six Tests and 34 One-Day Internationals (ODIs). He is best remembered for hitting Pakistani bowler Saqlain Mushtaq for a boundary of the penultimate ball of the Independence Cup final in Dhaka and winning the game as well as the tournament for India. On his birthday, Chinmay Jawalekar lists 12 interesting things to know about the southpaw who never really realised his true potential at the highest level.

1.  Sporting family: Kanitkar comes from a sporting family. His father Hemant also played cricket for India and Maharashtra. His brother Aditya played golf, while Aditya’s wife and Kanitkar’s sister-in-law Radhika Tulpule is a former tennis player.

2.  Like father, like son: Interestingly, Kanitkar and his father have played two Tests each for India. It is a unique case of father-son duo playing the same number of Test matches for any country. However, junior Kanitkar also played 34 ODIs.

3.  First-Class debut: Kanitkar made his First-Class debut in the Ranji Trophy match for Maharashtra against Bombay (now Mumbai) in December 1994. Batting at number six in the only innings of the match, he scored 44 runs. He also picked up a wicket in the match, with Bombay’s Sulakshan Kulkarni being his maiden First-Class victim.

4.  Time with the Indian team: Kanitkar played for India between December 1997 and January 2000. He played two Test matches in Australia and 34 ODIs overall for the country. He scored 74 runs at an average of 18.50 in the Tests and 339 at 17.84 in the ODIs. He also picked up 17 wickets in the ODIs, thus gaining the reputation of a reliable all-rounder.

5.  Unexpected call-up for Tests:  Kanitkar was leading the India A team in the West Indies when he was called to represent the Indian side in Australia as a replacement for Ajay Jadeja. However, he failed against the formidable Australian team in the Tests and subsequent ODIs and never played another game for India.

6.  That famous boundary: On January 18, 1998, playing in only his third career ODI, Kanitkar did something that will never be forgotten. It was the final of the Independence Cup between arch-rivals India and Pakistan. Chasing a mammoth 315 to win from 48 overs, India needed 3 from the last 2 balls with Kanitkar on strike. Ace spinner Saqlain Mushtaq was bowling the last over and an India win seemed improbable. Coming in at No. 7, Kanitkar smacked the penultimate delivery of Mushtaq’s over for a winning boundary over the midwicket. By hitting that four, he became an overnight hero and a cult figure for a generation of cricket lovers. Years after hitting that famous boundary, Kanitkar once told in an interview that it was Javagal Srinath’s advice to connect the ball that helped him. Srinath was present at the other end and saw Kanitkar seal the game for India.


7.  A wanderer: After playing 14 seasons for Maharashtra in the domestic circuit, Kanitkar turned professional in the year 2008 and switched to play for Madhya Pradesh domestic team. He also led the side. After two seasons with the team, he then moved to Rajasthan — a team he led to two successive Ranji titles in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

8.  Leader and mentor: In the later part of his career, when he turned professional and led Madhya Pradesh first and then Rajasthan in domestic cricket, Kanitkar played the role of a leader and mentor to perfection. He not only excelled with his own brilliant individual performance, but also helped cricketers get better at their games by mentoring them. He considers it a great achievement and ranks it as high as the India cap.

9.  Domestic legend: Kanitkar aggregated 10,400 First-Class runs in 146 games at an average of 52.26, thus making him a domestic legend. He is also a huge figure in Ranji Trophy, as his 8,059 runs in 105 matches spread over 19 years make him the third-highest run-getter in the history of the premier domestic tournament, behind Wasim Jaffer and Amol Muzumdar.

10.  Coaching: Kanitkar’s stint with the Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan teams helped him evolve as a coach. Post-retiring from the game, he got involved into coaching and has successfully conducted a regional East Zone Camp for the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) Under-19 cricketers. In IPL season 9, he was involved with the Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) side’s coaching set-up as an assistant coach (fielding). His future aspirations include getting his coaching qualifications from the BCCI at the National Cricket Academy and coaching the Indian team.

11.  Commentary aspirations: Kanitkar is also interested in commentary. He once said during an interview with Wisden India, “I like to analyse the game. I like to think about match situations, mental makeup and stuff like that. I know I have the knowledge and if I get the opportunity, it (commentary and cricket analysis) is something I will work hard, at and see where it takes me.”

12.  Great fielder: Kanitkar was a true all-rounder. Not only being a good batsman and a handy off-spinner, he was also a brilliant fielder. His exceptional fielding skills are put on display in the following video, where he can be seen taking a fantastic catch of former Pakistan captain Inzamam-Ul-Haq during an ODI in Australia.