Rajinder Goel, one of the finest left-arm spinners never to have played for the country, passed away on Sunday.
Rohtak-based Goel, 77, lost the battle against age-related health issues. He is survived by his wife and son Nitin.
Goel, whose cricket journey began with Patiala (later Southern Punjab) during the 1957-58 season, played his last Ranji Trophy match for Haryana in 1984-85.
Most wickets in Ranji
During his illustrious career, Goel took 750 First Class wickets, which includes a record 637 wickets in Ranji Trophy.
Part of an era when the spin quartet of Bishan Singh Bedi, B.S. Chandrasekhar, E.A.S. Prasanna and S. Venkataraghavan performed with distinction for the country, Goel was destined to remain the most prolific left-arm spinner in domestic cricket in a career spread over 28 seasons.
In 2012, Goel was bestowed the Lifetime Achievement Award by the BCCI. In fact, former captain Sunil Gavaskar devoted a chapter to Goel in his second book titled Idols.
Goel, who earned immense respect from cricketing greats and former Indian captains like Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Bedi, Gavaskar, G.R. Viswanath and Kapil Dev, among others, must have rued missing out on a chance to make the Indian squad against the visiting West Indies team under Clive Lloyd in the 1974-75 season.
Ahead of the first Test at Bangalore, where Viv Richards and Gordon Greenidge made their debut, National selectors preferred two off-spinners and a leg-spinner, thereby leaving no room for Goel’s selection.
A disappointed, but not disheartened, Goel continued to torment batsmen in domestic cricket for the following decade.
He did regret not being able to help Haryana win the Ranji Trophy. But he always cherished the memories of the Kapil Dev-led squad humbling host Mumbai by two runs in the 1990-91 Ranji Trophy final.
Goel would often say, “I was born in the wrong era.”
His passing has ended an era.