What comes to your mind when someone mentions the name Sanjay Bangar? 'The former batting coach of the Indian team' is the most likely answer. Some people with better memories would recall him as a doughty opening batsman who paired with Virender Sehwag for some time in Test cricket.
Those people who are familiar with Bangar's stint in the Test batting line-up of India in 2002 probably know him as the perfect foil for Virender Sehwag. While the legendary two-time triple-centurion was known to go after the bowlers right from the word go, Bangar was a cautious and compact batsman who was more intent on seeing off the new ball.
Eventually, he got replaced by Aakash Chopra but in the brief career that he had with the Indian team, Bangar was able to contribute in a very important manner to a very famous win over England in Headingley in 2002.
In that match, the former batting coach of Indian side, scored an important half-century and formed a key second-wicket partnership which allowed India to avoid great damage on a juicy pitch in highly-overcast conditions and set the platform for a big score and, eventually, an innings win.
But many people will find it hard to believe that the same grafter of runs once helped India record a memorable ODI victory over West Indies – one where they chased down 325 – by playing a dashing knock at no. 7 in the batting order.
The year was 2002 and the West Indians were touring India to play a three-match Test and seven-match ODI series. India won the Test contest 2-0 but the Windies turned things around to clinch the ODI rubber 4-3.
However, the fourth match of the series, played at Ahmedabad and the only day-nighter of the seven games, saw a thrilling contest. The tourists had taken a 2-0 lead in the series after chasing down big totals (in the context of that era) to win the first two games. India then fought back to win the third ODI thanks to a brilliant hundred by Virender Sehwag.
The Windies now looked in a good position to take a 3-1 lead by raking up 324 in the fourth ODI. The eventual man-of-the-series, Chris Gayle, scored 140 while Ramnaresh Sarwan was 99 not out at the end of the innings.
The anchor of India's chase was Rahul Dravid who scored one of his best hundreds – an unbeaten 109. But India were up against a high and steadily increasing required run-rate in the final overs and needed somebody to get quick runs. The batsman who came in at no. 7 was an unusual choice.
Everyone wondered what a steady Test opener would do in such a situation. But then Bangar stunned everyone by launching into a highly-attacking innings that brought the required run-rate down and got India home with more than two overs to spare.
Bangar's 57 off just 41 balls contained 5 fours and 2 sixes. It was a most uncharacteristic innings that stunned everyone and came at the best possible time for Team India. It was a one-off innings from the right-hander that suddenly made him a star. For once in his career, Sanjay Bangar was the one shining brightest in the sky of Indian cricket.