Devang Gandhi: four Tests, plenty of memories © Getty Images
Devang Gandhi, the former Indian Test opener and Bengal batsman, has retired from first-class cricket. Gandhi said his motivation levels had gone down and that he was happy to leave a strong team behind, with a number of youngsters making their "presence felt".
Gandhi, 34, played four Tests for India between October and December 1999 before he was dropped from the squad. He continued to grind out hundreds at the first-class level, where he averaged 42 over 12 seasons, and led East Zone to a Deodhar Trophy title in 2004. Poor form, though, kept him out of the Bengal side for most of this season and he didn't play too much of a role in their revival.
He made his debut against New Zealand in Chandigarh and began on an inauspicious note with a first-innings duck. But he made amends in the second with an impressive 75 and followed it up with another composed knock in the next Test at Kanpur, where he contributed 88 in an opening partnership of 126 with Sadagoppan Ramesh.
"I will rate the Kanpur innings as the best of my career," he said while addressing a press conference at Eden Gardens, "as that was a difficult wicket and I was top-scorer for India in that match." He was picked for India's Australia tour in December but a double failure in the opening Test at Adelaide, when he made 4 and 0 and looked completely out of sorts, cost him his place. Gandhi, whose opening slot was taken by VVS Laxman, spoke about the harsh initiation. "My preparations for the tour Down Under was not adequate," he explained. "Also, I think the batsmen in India develop weakness in facing short balls, as the slow domestic wickets do not allow them to get attuned to such stuff."
He revealed that he would continue to play county and club cricket in England. Gandhi is also a qualified Level II coach through a course offered by the England Cricket Board (ECB), but he didn't have any immediate plans on that front. "I won't be doing justice to the kids as I will not be able to give them enough time. I will concentrate on coaching only when I give up the game fully."
Gandhi, who played his final first-class game in December last year, said he regretted not being able to lead Bengal to a Ranji Trophy title. He had a chance to lead East Zone to their first Duleep Trophy title in March 2004 but was thwarted by North in a pulsating final at Mohali.
'DG', as he is called in the Maidan circuit, might be remembered in many ways (not least by Ramesh's famous statement - "given the bowling we get at the domestic level, why Devang Gandhi, even Mahatma Gandhi will score runs"). But the most poignant memory will be the gesture that ended his career, when on the eve of a Ranji match he offered his place to Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, his partner at Sporting Union. Jhunjhunwala had a fine debut season, culminating in a India A spot, as Gandhi quietly rode into the sunset.