Petered-out Talent? Narendra Hirwani.


I really did not want to put Hirwani here: he did play his part, you know… He wasn’t a Kumble for sure, and was unfortunate that his career coincided with that of Kumble, who of course is a modern-day (and all-time) great! In a way, his career was the tweet equivalent of Stuart McGill’s.
And let’s see, didn’t one of the highest wicket-takers of all time at the Ranjis, play his part? The foot-soldier has a place, or at least should have a place in cricket memory, if not in the pantheon. And well, there were a few certain memories. Mark Boucher (or maybe Dave Richardson) beaten and bowled off a frantic googly during Hirwani’s comeback in the mid-’90’s… the true-blue bunny batsmanship. Mile sur mera tumhara. And well, a personal memory – I saw him play at the Burnpur cricket stadium in Asansol (Central Zone vs West Zone, Irani trophy if I remember correctly), a long time ago… he was possibly the highest-profile player in the first first-class match I saw live. And of course, he’s a selector now.

We all know about his first test match. There was more.

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4 thoughts on “Petered-out Talent? Narendra Hirwani.

  1. I dont think Hirwani was inferior to Kumble..He infact was a proper and a much better leggie but his career was a tale of unfortunate events..Kumble wasnt called a great till almost the end of his career(Infact i feel his captaincy and his …brilliant handling of the 2008 Sydney test issue contributed immensely to that “greatness”)..he was just an average bowler,a trickless spinner in a sense,till the 2003 Australia series wherein he picked up 26 wickets in 3 tests and started getting that googly going..i think that series led to his evolution as a spinner and he became a good spinner after that..Before that we all know that broken Indian pitches and scared batsmen contributed to his swelling wickets tally..He is in that Hall of Fame of spinners because of his number of wickets but he is far behind the other men in that club,Warne and Murali..While Kumble was an extremely lucky man Hirwani was the opposite..In 1990 they played a Lord’s test together and Hirwani got dumped forever after just one bad outing..Also in 2001 against Australia,Ganguly raised hopes of his inclusion only to dump him again..and Harbhajan hit big time after that series !!

  2. I am a big fan of Kumble. He wasn’t a turner of the ball, but he was a genuine wicket taker. Hirwani might have been a better true legspinner, but Kumble was a considerably better bowler, a far better wicket taker. There has not been a better true wicket taker in Indian cricket history – and I include Kapil here.
    And probably the closest approximation to Kumble was McGrath. – 84mph, no swing, no cut, no yorkers, few bouncers… how does he take wickets? Mcgrath was not a patch on Lillee as a paceman, in fact he was as a quick bowler less apparently equipped than Brett Lee, but as a bowler (primary purpose here being taking wickets.. not scaring the bejesus out of batsmen with pace, swing or spin) he had no comparison.
    It’s wrong to compare Kumble with Warne and Murali, who, in their own ways, are more traditional spinners than Kumble.

    But anyway, this is about Hirwani. There was no reason why Hirwani and Kumble could not have player together… they were very different bowlers after all…. And Hirwani was a better bowler than Raju or Chauhan….

    • I like Kumble too.But i like him more for his grit and for the fact that he evolved into such a big player despite being not so prodigiously talented.But His bowling(especially before 2003) was not very convincing to me,though records were fantastic!!
      McGrath was a seamer who relied on nagging accuracy & terrific seam position to take wickets..thats why he could take the nature of wickets out of the equation and thats why he picked up wickets around the world with equal consistency.Kumble also relied on accuracy but since he was a slow bowler he needed to have either the variations to gather wickets or some significant support from the pitch to get variations/turn/bounce which he otherwise wouldnt get.My problem is that before 2003 Australia series he relied on the latter to take wickets and hence i would never want to put him in the same bracket as McGrath because,as you said,despite being less endowed as a pacer than the likes of Lee,Gillespie he took the pitch out of the equation completely whereas Kumble couldnt.Infact if you recall his lack of versatility was the reason Ganguly preferred Harbhajan over Kumble on overseas test matches in the initial part of this decade.But yes post this 2003 series he did become a more versatile bowler.Just a few stats(from cricinfo) to support my point :
      Kumble played 132 tests and took 619 wickets.He played 47% of these tests in India and took 57% of his total wickets at home.His Strike Rate is the best in Bangladesh(32.4)..Next best is in India(59)..In Srilanka,England,South Africa its more than 90 and in New Zealand its 105..In Australia he is at 65 in 10 tests(his 2003 tally of 26 wickets in 3 tests contributing to it big time)..I couldnt get the split of his wickets before and after 2003 and I am sure those would be revealing stats as well..

  3. Ashu. McG wasn’t superbly successful in his later career in the dustbowls of asia. Look, he was reasonably pacey earlier, so he could still be at the batsmen’s faces in Asia… kumble’s story was in the reverse. Warne was not successful in India because he was a loopy spinner who needed bounce and pace off the wicket (or vulnerable batsmen) to get his wickets. Kumble was a very indian-track bowler earlier, quick through the air, intelligent little variations — kumble in a 5th day in india was like underwood in a wet wicket. And then he learnt how to bowl abroad.
    Also, remember that fast bowlers are at the top of their abilities at the mid twenties, while spinners only attain that in the early 30s.
    Lillee did nothing in the subcontinent, never bowled in dustbowls etc. Will he become a lesser bowler than say Matthew Hoggard, who was successful in the subcontinent?
    Similarly, you cannot compare Kumbe and Hirwani. Hirwani was a traditional spinner, Kumble was very different. In my opinion, Kumble is head and shoulders above any other indian bowler…. but my main point of contention was that the two of them, Kumble and Hirwani, could play together… Grimmett and O’reilley did so brilliantly for australia.
    And more than anything, this article was a celebration of Hirwani the bowler and the Ranji stalwart.

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