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Tribute to Eknath Solkar and more
by Sunil Gavaskar
Jun 29, 2007
This year’s ICC Annual Conference coincided with the second death anniversary of India’s greatest fielder Eknath Solkar. It was two years back that the news filtered in at the dinner hosted by the Asian Cricket Council that 'Ekki' was no more. Last year, the conference was in early July, but this year, with the dates coinciding with 'Ekki’s' death anniversary, all the memories came flooding back. Not that there is a day gone by when he has been out of the thoughts of not just his family but some close friends. Every single cricketing function, especially in Mumbai, is where we miss 'Ekki' the most, for he was always the guy others crowded around, and with his ready smile, was easily the most popular person at the function.

Today, when the Indian team is looking as if it could do with some help in the fielding department, 'Ekki’s' importance to India’s wins in the late 1960s and 70s becomes clearer. Many of the batsmen from overseas were afraid of the man lurking at forward short leg for he was capable of picking the quarter chance and sending the batsman packing his batting kit for the day. what many of today’s generation may not know is that 'Ekki' was a brilliant fielder anywhere, and only 'Tiger' Pataudi and Azhar could match up to him as all-round fielders. It would be in the fitness of things if the BCCI would institute a trophy for the best Indian Fielder for the Year and name it after 'Ekki'. India’s fielding would improve dramatically if players are made to vie for the trophy. The umpires and the match referee at all the first-class games, along with a former player and a media-person, could be asked to rank the top three fielders in a first-class game with number one getting three points, number two getting two and number three getting one point. These points to be added at the end of the season and the fielder with the best marks getting the trophy. That would be a fantastic recognition of 'Ekki’s' contribution to Indian cricket, and also help take Indian fielding to a higher level. This is the 75th anniversary of India’s entry in Test cricket, and there will surely be functions to celebrate the occasion and the trophy could be given then. The Mumbai Cricket Association must take the lead in convincing the BCCI to have a trophy named after 'Ekki,' for he was a Mumbai player who did yeoman service to them as well.

Last year, when the idea of having different skippers for Test and one-day squads was mooted in England, Michael Vaughan was not too well disposed towards it, but now that he has stepped down as the captain of England’s one-day team, but has opted to stay on As the Test skipper, he feels that there is no harm in having two skippers for a team. Australia have done it in the past with Steve Waugh captaining the Test team and Ponting skippering the one-day squad, but after Waugh retired, both the formats have Ponting as the leader, and he is doing a fantastic job of it and also having a golden run as a batsman. That is the crucial thing, for many a team has lost a good player when he has been burdened with the captaincy. History has shown that as soon as the captaincy has been taken away from them, they return to becoming the great players they were before the weight of thinking for the entire squad began to get them down. Very few players revel with the additional responsibility of being the captain, simply because there is not one second, whether awake or asleep, that the responsibility is not there. A player can switch off once playing hours are done, but not the captain, a player can think about his own game and how to get better at it, but not the skipper who has little time to think of where his own game is, as he is constantly thinking of how to help his teammates and develop their game.

England will no doubt wait and see how much the responsibility affects Collingwood’s game, for in recent times, he has come on by leaps and bounds as a batsman at the Test level too, and if there is no visible difference to his game, then unless Michael Vaughan strikes a rich vein of form, England may well have Collingwood as skipper for both formats of the game by the end of their season. Flintoff’s injury has not yet healed and Strauss is going through a lean patch, so the other two contenders for the captaincy have fallen by the wayside and has made it easier for Collingwood. How he handles Flintoff and the temperamental Harmison will be interesting to say the least. Collingwood is in the best form of his life and full of confidence, and with the form he is in, he has the confidence of the team as well.

The West Indies tour of England is coming to an end with only the one-dayers remaining, and England will hopefully have a sterner test of skills with India. That the India series is more competitive than against the West Indies is the hope of the fans in England, the West Indians included.

 
More Views by Sunil Gavaskar
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