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The February Men

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India_Cricket_February_birthday_playersHaresh Pandya recently wrote a piece on the 67th birthday of one of the finest batsmen India has produced – Gundappa Vishwanath. Yours sincerely has always felt proud about sharing the initials (GV) with this maestro-with-the-willow. I recall that February 12th, the day on which Vishy was born, is also the birth anniversary of a great man who lived in the 19th century – Abraham Lincoln.

If Abe left his stamp on US politics and statesmanship in general, Vishy has left an indelible one on batsmanship and he was one who played the gentleman’s game like a true gentleman. After reading Pandya’s piece, I was inclined towards looking up the names of the other Indian cricketers (Tests/ODIs/T20s) born in the month of February – Aquarians and Pisceans.

Bang on the first day of the month we have Ajay Jadeja, former vice-captain of the Indian side. A man who could have achieved much more with bat and ball, and graced the scene for some more years. He threw it all away. A prince who perhaps did not understand the value of playing for one’s country. Well, the disgrace he inflicted on himself is history now.

Curiously, there seems to be something about the first two weeks of February, which makes one sit up and wonder. February 6th is the birthday of one Mr. Sreesanth. What he did at the IPL, all of us know. It hurt not only his career, but eroded the strong foundation which had been set up for the Rajasthan Royals, courtesy the hard work of the likes of Dravid, Rahane and some others. And like most of them do, when a door is banged shut on their faces, he is now trying his luck in a sphere which suits him best – politics!

Interestingly, there is another name, a big one at that, which comes to mind, when we talk of disgrace and politics – that of Mohammad Azharuddin. This stylish Hyderabadi batsman who was liked and admired by so many all over the world (including yours sincerely), proved to all of us, how it is possible to lose everything built up assiduously over time, by letting the Devil take you for a ride. He however is someone youngsters can learn a lot from – ‘how to be’ from the first decade or so of his career and ‘how not to be’ from the years thereafter.

Sreesanth perhaps took a leaf out of Azhar’s book by joining politics...GB Shaw said, ‘if you cannot do anything, teach.’ What would you say about people who end up disgracing themselves with their numerous faux pas and enter politics?

So that was Gujarat, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh/Telangana for you. We move to Karnataka to meet a bowler who played 31 ODIs and 1 Test match for India, and who shares his birthday with Vishy: Vinay Kumar. He is 33 now, and if Ashish Nehra could play for India in his late 30s, Vinay Kumar too has a chance. Great performances in the IPL may get him back into the side, sometime in the near future. About Gundappa Vishwanath, well, I would ask you to read the already published piece on this site.

We now move to Mumbai to meet Wasim Jaffer, who celebrated his 39th birthday on the 16th of February. We know him for the two double hundreds he scored in his Test career for India – one on foreign soil against the West Indians and one against Pakistan in Kolkata. Unlike some of the cricketers named earlier, Jaffer made his bus-driver-father proud when he made it to the Indian Test team.

Rohan Gavaskar comes in next – and we remember him primarily for the onus he had to shoulder, being the son of the great Mr. Sunil Gavaskar. He went on to have a fruitful domestic career, though. Not everyone can be an all-time great.

Still in the same month, let us cross over to the next zodiac– Pisces. The first among Pisceans is the swashbuckling wicketkeeper-batsman Farokh Engineer, who turned 79 on the 25th of February. He is followed by middle-order bat Venugopal Rao, who could not make much of the opportunities he got to play for India.

The list ends there… It is not too long, likely because February is the shortest month of the year, be it a leap-year or otherwise. Perhaps sometime later this year, I may get a chance to profile cricketers born during some other month. That list would be much longer than this one.

 

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G Venkatesh (born 1972) is a senior lecturer in Energy and Environment, at Karlstad University in S...

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