India news January 1, 2013

Sairaj Bahutule quits first-class cricket

Sairaj Bahutule, the former India legspinner who played two Tests and eight ODIs, has called time on his 21-year first-class career. Bahutule, 39, who took over the Vidarbha captaincy last season, had made up his mind after Vidarbha finished their Group B campaign in Nagpur on Tuesday.

"It was on my mind for a while but I was waiting for the right time. I feel this is the right time since Vidarbha's Ranji season is over," Bahutule told ESPNcricinfo.

Since his debut for Mumbai in December 1991, Bahutule has emerged as one of the most successful spinners in the domestic circuit. Though his international career lasted only ten games, earlier this season, Bahutule became only the ninth bowler in Ranji Trophy history to surpass the 400-wicket mark.

"It has been an enjoyable ride over the last so many years. I have surprised myself by playing 21 years of first-class cricket. God has been kind in many ways. Not only have I been able to play for India but also the body has remained fit over these years. Obviously, the rigours of two decades were reflecting in the body, so I had to take a call with regards to that as well."

Bahutule featured in six Ranji finals, all for Mumbai, victorious on all occasions. While the first Ranji final he featured in was in 1993-94 against Bengal, the last one was in 2008-09 when he played his final game for Mumbai, against Uttar Pradesh. The most special of those finals was the one in 2003-04 when he led Mumbai to the title, scoring a useful 92 lower down the order.

Bahutule has always been a handy lower-order batsman. This helped him in many ways during his short stints with a host of weaker sides over the last eight seasons. After moving from Mumbai to neighbouring Maharashtra in 2005-06, Bahutule also had stints with Assam and Andhra before moving to Vidarbha.

"It's been a very good experience. When you play for Mumbai, you always go in with the attitude of being a winner. Whereas, with the developing teams, it is about how you can inculcate that attitude into those teams. They don't really know the process of winning. So I had to perform with the bat and the ball, besides trying to make sure that the team plays as a unit. For that, I avoided making too many changes and backing players despite initial failures," Bahutule said.

His only grudge was the inability to make the cut for an IPL franchise. "Because that is the only form of cricket I haven't played in. I have played Ranji, I have played international cricket, I played club cricket in England for 14 years, but somehow couldn't feature in the IPL. It came at a time when I feel I had it in me to succeed in the first two seasons, but chalta hai (it's okay),"he said.

He will still be involved with Vidarbha this season, as a coach for the upcoming zonal one-dayers and Twenty20 competitions. "Since I was contracted with them for the whole season and having decided to stop playing, they have asked me to be responsible for the team's performance in the shorter formats. I am looking forward to it," he said.

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo