It wasasanattractive, promis- ing, left-hand batsman that Hrishikesh Kanitkar made his India debut in ODIs in December 1997. Two years
later, he made his Test debut on
India’s disastrous tour of Australia
in 1999-2000. He carried the weight
of high expectations on his shoulders. After all, he was immensely talented and former India player
Hemant Kanitkar’s son.
The Indian batting line-up in
those years was studded with gems
like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav
Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and
Venkatsai Laxman. It was not easy
for another batsman, howsoever talented, to find a place in the Indian
Hrishikesh Kanitkar was reasonably successful in the limited opportunities he got in ODIs and Tests.
Not being a regular member of the
side meant he was never certain of
his place for the next game nor was
he sure of his batting position, if
selected. He was always on trial.
A batsman of his class deserved
more opportunities — not just 34
ODIs and two Tests — and better
results — not just 339 runs in ODIs and 74
runs in Tests — in terms of performance.
That he was unlucky in both formats
wasn’t for want of effort on his part, but
because of a variety of other factors.
After recently announcing his
retirement from the game, the 40 year old
looked back on his playing days with Haresh
You announced your retirement from first-
class cricket less than a month after your
father passed away. What made you take the
The decision was purely a cricketing one.
The motivation for long hours of nets, fielding and catching practice wasn’t there anymore.
You had a pretty long and fairly impressive
first-class career. With what kind of feeling
do you look back at your career?
I look back at my career with a feeling of
total satisfaction and thankfulness in my heart. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my career.
Any regrets at not having got to play in the Indian Premier
League and earn a few bucks in the bargain?
No regrets at all. When you’ve played Test cricket for your
country everything fades in comparison. Of course, I would
have loved to play in the IPL, naturally, but it wasn’t to be.
Did you ever figure out why you had such a short Test
career? Was it because of better talent available or was it a
clear case of fierce competition for every place in the Indian
At that level, unless you are someone like Sachin Tendulkar
or Brian Lara, basically someone very special, you do need
some time to get comfortable. I scored 45 in the second
innings on my Test debut, against Australia in Melbourne. It
was the second highest score (after Tendulkar’s 52) of the
Indian innings (195) and I was starting to get to know Test
Another couple of good innings could have made a difference. It’s a massive step up from first-class cricket and one
needs some time to adjust.
There was a feeling in many quarters that you deserved
more opportunities, at least in One-Day International crick-
et. Why do you think you were denied these opportunities?
The ODI team was packed with stalwarts when I made it
to the international level and so I didn’t get to bat higher up.
It’s tough to score big batting at No 7 or No 8 because of the
limited number of balls.
You never had a fixed position in the batting order. Nor did
you have a regular place in the Indian team. Do you think this
was one of the reasons why you did not often justify your true
I invariably batted lower down and, yes, not at a certain
place in the order. So getting big scores was very tough.
In ODIs, one needs to bat higher up to really make a mark
as a batsman. See all those who do well; they bat higher up.
It was said you were lacking in what they call solid mental
toughness required at the highest international level. Was
there any truth in such talk?
Mental toughness has been one of my strengths. Anyone
who watched me batting in Tests would know that I was up
for it. I was ready to fight it out. The difference is getting a
decent run as a batsman.
Did the pressure of performing and securing your place in
the Indian team, whenever you got the opportunity, affect
your batting sometimes?
Like any other international batsman, I, too, had to face
the pressure. That’s normal. Sometimes it can affect a player,
but I never got out because of
the pressure to perform. It
didn’t affect my batting.
You did not get to play for
India in the Sourav Ganguly
era. Was it a case of being
unwanted or was it because of
the presence of too many left-hand batsmen in the team?
I didn’t play in that era. I
don’t know the reason.
Your name is forever associated with that historic
Independence Cup final in
Dhaka in January 1998,
which you helped India win
by batting intelligently and
spectacularly in fading light.
What are your particular
memories of that match?
I remember the pressure
leaving my body as I stepped
on to the field on the way to
bat. I remember the calm
focus I had while batting. I
kept telling myself to watch
the ball closely and trust my
instincts. I was totally living
in the moment.
It was unbelievably dark out
there in the middle. And, finally,
I remember the proud feeling on winning
the game for India.
Did your winning knock in that final put
some pressure on you, because people start-
ed to believe that you could finish off tight
matches in style?
No, that’s something I was proud of doing.
There was no additional pressure.
Was your bowling talent seldom or never
properly utilised by your India captains?
I think I did okay as a bowler in the limit-ed-overs format. My job was to try to keep it
tight and get a few overs in.
Did being Hemant Kanitkar’s son always
put some pressure on you as a cricketer?
What influence did he have on your cricket
and subsequent career?
No. No pressure. He was very cool with my
successes and failures. He treated them the
same. I was fortunate to have a father like
He told me earlier on that there is no
shortcut to success and that once set I shouldn’t throw away
My first-class batting stats reflect that — 33 hundreds, 46
fifties. Not a bad conversion rate. That’s how much of a positive influence he had on me.
Did you become a cricketer because your father was also
The atmosphere at home helped. His Test cap helped. I
revered that cap. He said to wear it on my head I would have
to earn it. He never allowed me to wear his Test cap.
Why did you, or rather what made you, leave Maharashtra
and play for Rajasthan?
I knew I had a lot of cricket left in me. I knew I could contribute to younger players’ development in the role of mentor. I loved cricket too much to leave so soon.
What’s your most unfulfilled ambition as a cricketer?
Test and ODI hundreds. Contributing more to my beloved
Team India in any way possible.
In what capacity would you like to serve Indian cricket now
that you have called it a day?
Definitely, as a coach. I love to work with players and help
them realise their true potential; also in any capacity the
BCCI wants me to work. I am very interested in commentary
too. So that’s an avenue I’ve open to me.
‘When you’ve played
for India everything
fades in comparison’
‘Anyone who watched me batting in Tests would know
that I was up for it. I was ready to fight it out.’
Hrishikesh Kanitkar discusses his chequered career
in this lively conversation with Haresh Pandya
hrishikesh Kanitkar stands dejected after he is caught behind by West Indies wicket-keeper ridley Jacobs off the bowling of Corey Collymore in a one-Day International, September 12, 1999. reUTerS