June 23, 2001

Sunil Subramaniam calls it a day

The closest he got to playing for the country was representing the Rest of India in the Irani Trophy game against Mumbai. But Sunil Subramaniam has no regrets. The left arm spinner from Tamil Nadu was considered to be among the most feared bowlers in first class cricket in this country not only for his skill as a bowler but for his aggressive approach. He was a slow bowler with the fast bowler's attitude. And after a distinguished career that lasted just over a decade, Sunil formally announced his retirement from the game on Saturday.

Perhaps calling it a day was in the mind of the 34-year-old Sunil for some time now. What hastened the decision was a torn ligament in his left leg following a freak mishap at practice. Two operations followed as a result and it was obvious that a return to competitive cricket for Sunil was out of the question.

The tall spin bowler had a bag of 258 wickets from 66 Ranji Trophy matches, 245 of them for Tamil Nadu over a ten year period from 1988-89. After being dropped from the state team, Sunil played for Assam as a professional last season. He took 13 wickets and played a leading role in Assam making the knock out stage.

Sunil took 19 wickets in six Duleep Trophy games for South Zone with a best of five for 14 against North Zone at Valsaad in 1993-94. In the one Irani Trophy game he played in 1994-95, he had the wicket of Sanjay Manjrekar. Totally, he took five wickets in an innings 20 times in first class cricket and picked up ten wickets in a match four times.

Sunil's tally of 245 wickets for Tamil Nadu is the third highest for a bowler from the State, after S Venkatraghavan (530) and VV Kumar (417). With Diwakar Vasu and M Venkatramana, he formed a much feared spin trio in the late eighties and nineties. Sunil himself made his first class debut for Tamil Nadu against the visiting New Zealand side in 1988-89. He took three for 83 and three for 82 and was given the best bowler award in the match. Sunil's best haul in a season was 39 wickets in 1992-93. Along with AG Ram Singh and VV Kumar, Sunil holds the record for maximum wickets in a Ranji Trophy match for Tamil Nadu, 14 for 118 against Assam in 1992-93. He took a hat-trick against Kerala the same season.

A bowler who thrived on responsibility and greater competition, Sunil reckons K Srikkanth was the best captain he played under. "He brought out the best in me," he said. Sunil himself captained Tamil Nadu in two matches in 1996-97.

For now, Sunil will concentrate on his career as an executive with India Pistons, which has elevated him to a post of greater responsibility. But he hopes to return to the game he loves, "most probably as an umpire," as he put it.