India news June 21, 2012

Sunil Joshi announces retirement

Sunil Joshi, the Karnataka left-arm spinner, has formally announced his retirement from international and first-class cricket. Joshi, 42, hasn't played competitive cricket in more than a year, and was the coach of Hyderabad last season.

His international career lasted between 1996 and 2001, spanning 15 Tests and 69 ODIs. His most famous international performance was his 10-6-6-5 spell against South Africa in 1999. In Tests, he was Man of the Match in Bangladesh's inaugural match, after an all-round effort, taking eight wickets and also scoring a battling 92 in the first innings.

On the domestic circuit, he was a stalwart for Karnataka, finishing as the third highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy, behind Rajinder Goel and S Venkataraghavan. He won the Ranji Trophy three times - 1995-96, 1997-98 and 1998-99. He was also a handy batsman, finishing with 5126 first-class runs at an average of 26.71. With the Karnataka State Cricket Association recently launching its plan to revive Karnataka's fortunes, it will be players like Joshi that it would be looking to unearth.

At a function organised by the KSCA to mark the occasion, Joshi was warmly praised by some of the state's greatest players, several of whom were his team-mates at both the domestic and international level. Anil Kumble hailed his impact both on the field and off it. "Congratulations on a terrific career, for being a fantastic servant of Karnataka cricket. His determination and dedication was always evident," Kumble said. "He is an exceptional allrounder whose services will always be missed. Not just stats, he also contributed by supporting and encouraging younger players."

Rahul Dravid called him 'an ornament to the game' and highlighted the importance of experienced players like Joshi in the domestic game. "Even 10 years after his last game for India, he was still playing for Karnataka," Dravid said. "It is people like Joshi who make domestic cricket the breeding ground for talent. His experience and class helps younger players and also rivals."

Dravid also highlighted Joshi's commitment. "He led by example. I remember a Ranji semi-final against Hyderabad, he bowled the first over of the day and I didn't take him off till the end of the day. He bowled 45 overs for me."

The tributes all referred to Joshi's rise from the small town of Gadag in northern Karnataka, and his struggles to make the Ranji team. An emotional Joshi himself recalled the early days. "As a 12-year-old I used to take the Gol Gumbaz express everyday at 3.30am from Gadag to Hubli (a larger town where he practised)," he said about a journey he undertook for several years.

When he finally broke into the Ranji team, after several seasons of junior state cricket, his first match didn't go to plan. "My first cap was in 1992, there was a lot of pressure on me. I made 83 not out on the first day, and bowled a single over before stumps," he said. "The next day the match was called off due to the Ayodhya riots." He went on to become the most capped Karnataka player.

Roger Binny, the former India allrounder, said Joshi paved the way for other small-town cricketers in the state. "I was the coach when Joshi came into the state team," Binny said. "He has been an inspiration to cricketers from mofussil areas. In the recent past, Vinay Kumar has also done the same thing."

Javagal Srinath was the last of the state's legends to pay tribute, and had the audience in splits with his anecdotes about Joshi's cooking, their Under-22 days and Joshi's retort after Srinath, not usually a close-in fielder, dropped a sitter at slip during Bangladesh's first Test (telling him angrily that fast bowlers should always field in the deep).

Joshi was presented a memento by the KSCA, and was surprised by a coffee table book showcasing his career that was put together by his family. The evening of bonhomie and respect was the perfect way to acknowledge the end of one of the great careers in domestic cricket.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo