India's two biggest passions – cricket and cinema – have been brought together in a unique way through the Indian Premier League (IPL). But even before the launch of the league, the twain had met. There is a small but very interesting list of cricketers who tried their hand at becoming successful actors. Two new names will soon join this list – Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan.
But they are not pioneers of this route. The association between the cricket fraternity and film industry goes a long way back. Here, we look at some of the prominent cricketers who tried their hand at acting. Not all of them were successful though.
Salim Durrani was a batsman well ahead of his time. He was one of the most aggressive scorers in his day and a genuine crowd puller. If he had been playing in this era, with IPL and all, he may have become a huge star. But even in the 1960s, he had a big fan following. To add to his appeal, Durrani also possessed good looks.
As a result, he ventured into the film industry and starred in a movie called Charitra. This was also the debut film of Parveen Babi who went on to become a huge star. Unfortunately, this particular movie turned out to be a flop and therefore, prevented Durrani from becoming a major actor.
Making his debut in the same match as Sachin Tendulkar, Salil Ankola's cricket career didn't blossom. And it was cut short by the growth of a tumour in his leg. But Ankola, armed with his good looks and also acting skills, went on to have a successful career as an actor, both in cinema and TV.
He made his celluloid debut with the movie Kurukshetra in 2000, which also starred Sanjay Dutt. His debut as a television actor came earlier, in 1998. He has, since, starred in various movies and TV shows and has even featured on reality dramas like Big Boss.
Known for his swagger and 'cool attitude' in the 1990's, Ajay Jadeja fell out of favour as the troubled decade of Indian cricket came to an end. To make the situation worse, he also got caught up with the fall-out of match-fixing scandal which emerged at the turn of the century. With cricket having left him behind, Jadeja turned to cinema.
He made his debut in the movie Khel that was released in 2003. It was a multi-starrer with actors such as Sunny Deol and Sunil Shetty. But after that, he returned to the cricket world and has, since then, enjoyed success as a cricket pundit. He did a second movie, called Pal Pal Dil Ke Ssaat, in 2009. Needless to say, his acting career and that movie, sunk without trace.
The troubled life and cricket career of Vinod Kambli is well-documented. But what may have escaped the attention of many is the fact that he also has had an acting career. His debut movie Annarth came out in 2002.
In the same year, he also starred in a television drama called Miss India. Since then, he has done one more Hindi film and one Kannada movie. Like some other sportspersons, he too participated in the reality TV show Bigg Boss.
A bowler who bowled India to their first-ever Test win in South Africa, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth was prone to getting involved in controversies. But his career got completely derailed when he was accused of spot-fixing during an IPL match. He hasn't represented India since that time.
Even before his cricket career came to a halt, S Sreesanth was expected to be more than just a cricketer. He seemed to have a penchant for showmanship. Therefore, it is no surprise that he ended up starring in movies. His debut as an actor was in Aksar 2, a Bollywood film of 2017. In all, he has done two movies, one in Hindi and one in Malayalam.