Solkar takes a blinder
London, 23 August 1971
There are two contenders in my mind for the inflection point in the modern history of Indian cricket. One is Salim Durani clean-bowling Garry Sobers for zero at Queen's Park Oval in 1971. The other is Eknath Solkar catching Alan Knott off S Venkataraghavan at the Oval in 1971.
The first was so unexpected that most photographers were probably caught looking the other way. The second instance was well documented. Alan Knott turning the ball round the corner, Solkar doing a Gordon Banks, Farokh Engineer a bit surprised, and Sunil Gavaskar airborne in glee. Henri Cartier-Bresson's "decisive moment".
Solkar described this catch years later. Venkat and he had "set Knott up". England's wicketkeeper liked to turn the offspinner round the bend. Most bowlers would have plugged the gap. On the contrary, Venkat and Solkar kept the area vacant, invited Knott to indulge. Solkar moved sideways in anticipation, and as soon as he reckoned that Knott was going to turn, he coiled for the dive, leapt, and took the plunge. Literally.
It would be easy to look at the picture, say "Wow", and move on to the next page. But wait, rewind the frame a couple of seconds, think the sequence over in your mind's eye and then regard the picture as the final frame. Solkar didn't just catch Knott inches above the Oval. He gave Indian cricket a new twist.
This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine