Dodda Ganesh, the right-arm medium-fast bowler from Karnataka, who played four Tests and one ODI, announced his retirement from all forms of the game. Ganesh, who is a coach now, declared his intention of entering politics.
"It's been a great honour to represent Karnataka and play alongside legends like Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Rahul Dravid and Venkatesh Prasad," Ganesh told reporters in a press conference. "I now look forward to serving my people."
Ganesh, 33, didn't sparkle in the limited opportunities in the international arena, picking up just five wickets at 57.4, but was a stalwart in the first-class arena. He grabbed 365 wickets at 29.42 and had twenty five-wicket hauls. He showed immense promise in his early days - he had the pace, a high-arm action, and a natural outswinger - and made his debut against South Africa in 1997. Little did he know that his international career would end within a year, in the fifth Test against West Indies in Georgetown.
Kumble, who along with Gundappa Vishwanath, Prasad and Brijesh Patel, offered tributes at the felicitation ceremony, hailed his fighting spirit and felt Ganesh was a touch too raw when he made his international debut.
Ganesh agreed with the sentiment. "Everything was new to me, the flight journey, the five-star hotels, the country [South Africa], and the whole touring. I was bit overwhelmed."
It was in the Irani Trophy in 1996-97 where he picked up 11 wickets, including VVS Laxman and Navjot Singh Sidhu, that he stormed into national reckoning. "It was a mistake," Ganesh quipped in light-hearted manner. "If I had not picked those wickets I would not have been picked so early for India and I would have played longer in the highest arena"
Ganesh started his cricket as a wicketkeeper and an opening batsman - his early idols were Sadanand Vishwanath, the Indian wicketkeeper, and Ravi Shastri - in the tennis ball cricket before gradually turning to bowling. It was Vishwanath who spotted his bowling talent and enrolled him at Tarapore club. Frustrated with the lack of opportunities, he shifted to AV Jayaprakash's training camp where he prospered as a bowler and forced an entry into the Karnataka side.
However, the team was packed with bowlers like Srinath, Prasad, Kumble and Sunil Joshi and he had to wait for the Irani Trophy in 1996-97 to show what he was capable of.
Coming from a humble background, he was helped by kind team-mates and well-wishers. Jayaprakash waived the tuition fees and gifted him with a bat, Srinath would get him a pair of shoes from abroad, Kumble would gift him clothes and, while in the MRF Pace Academy, Prasad would translate in Kannada for him.
After that South African tour, he bowled only in two games in the West Indies series, was included in the squad for the Independence Cup in 1997 and was dropped for the tour of Sri Lanka. He never played for India again.
|I always put my state first and only then me. Karnataka cricket gave everything that I owe today and I am grateful for all the help from various quarters.|
Did he miss playing for India? "Playing for Karnataka in those days was like being in the Indian team," Ganesh deadpanned. "You played with all the stars who played for India. One wanted to impress Srinath, Kumble and just wanted to give 100% for the state. I always put my state first and only then me. Karnataka cricket gave everything that I owe today and I am grateful for all the help from various quarters. Special thanks to Raghunath. He was a great coach who never played politics with the team. He just wanted us to enjoy the game and win the Ranji Trophy for Karnataka. I owe a lot to him."
For a fast bowler, he rates his batting effort in a game and his decision not to bowl in another, as two of his memorable moments of his career. The first came in the 1997-98 Ranji Trophy semi-final against Hyderabad. "Nine wickets had fallen and I and Mansoor Ali Khan were the last men out in the middle. We needed seventeen runs. I refused to touch food at the break, saying I will have only after we win. We came back to knock the required runs.
The second moment came in the 1998-99 Ranji final against Madhya Pradesh. Bad light was pushing the game to a draw. The captain gave the ball to me but I said, if I bowl the umpires might offer the light to the batsmen. I suggested that Vijay Bharadwaj should be asked to bowl his offspinners. And Vijay went on to pick six wickets and we won the game. Karnataka first and only then be selfish, is my motto."
Srinath was effusive in his praise for him. "I think his contribution to Karnataka cricket has been tremendously significant," Srinath told Cricinfo. "He played his cricket to the fullest. He has bowled his heart out for Karnataka - Ganesh sent down 20355 balls in his first-class career - and I hope he stays in touch with the game."
Prasad too joined in with tributes. "A fantastic bowler, he had the great attitude on the field, never-say-die, he used to take up lots of responsibility and always played to win the game," Prasad said. "He has won many a game for Karnataka. It is unfortunate that he didn't play for a long time at higher level. His contribution to Karnataka cricket was tremendous.
Once I remember, he was trying to remodel his action and run-up and I have never seen anybody who worked so hard on the action. He was a totally dedicated and committed cricketer."
Sriram Veera is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo