Indian cricket has a great legacy of spin bowling. One of the many great spin bowlers produced by this country was left-armer Rameshchandra Gangaram 'Bapu' Nadkarni. This great stalwart passed away late on January 17 at the age of 86. Immediately, tributes poured in for the Indian legend with the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar leading the way.
Playing his international cricket in the 1950s and 60s, Nadkarni made a name for himself as an incredibly accurate and parsimonious bowler who bowled the stingiest spell ever by an Indian in Test cricket. His overall record in Test cricket may not look impressive at first glance – 88 wickets in 41 Tests at an average of 29.07 and strike rate of 104.1.
But that's not the whole story. The real greatness of Nadkarni lies in his being a real scrooge of cricket. His career economy rate of 1.67 tells this story. The most famous performance by Nadkarni was against England in a Test played at Chennai in 1964. His figures in one of the innings of that match were 32-27-5-0. It was in this spell that he bowled 21 consecutive maidens, most of them to John Edrich.
This was by no means the only exceptionally mean spell he delivered in his career. Similar performances came in a home series against Pakistan also played at the beginning of 1960s. As far as wicket-taking prowess is concerned, the Mumbai and India cricketer has four 5-wicket hauls in Test cricket including one 10-wicket haul in a Test.
In domestic cricket, he was part of the great Mumbai team that has dominated the Indian circuit through the decades. In 191 first-class games, Bapu Nadkarni has exactly 500 scalps. Apart from being a spinner, he was also a very useful batsman and managed to score 1414 runs from 41 Tests at an average of 25.70 with one hundred and seven 50s.
Among the former cricketers who have paid their tributes are legendary names such as Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar. Gavaskar said in his statement: "He came as assistant manager for quite a number of our tours. He was very encouraging. His favourite term from where we all learnt from was 'chhodo mat (don't give up)'.
"He was gritty despite playing in the days when gloves and thigh pads were not very good, not much protective equipment as you would get hit, but still hang in there as he believed in chhodo mat. You are playing for India. That thing we learnt from him."
Sachin Tendulkar also put out a tweet saying: "Very sad to hear about the demise of Shri Bapu Nadkarni. I grew up hearing about the record of him bowling 21 consecutive maiden overs in a Test. My condolences to his family and dear ones. Rest in Peace Sir." Truly, the likes of him won't be seen again in cricket. One wonders how valuable a bowler like him would have been in IPL.