Anshuman Gaekwad’s success in cricket hangs by a feeble thread. And there have been so many instances of this that this truism has now become a fad or life. And it applies to the hilt to the story of Anshuman Gaekwad, India’s find of the season. When Anshuman Gaekwad went in to bat in the second innings of the Madras Test against the West Indies, memories of his splendid fighting batting under pressure on his Test debut at Calcutta earlier had paled for the lay public for whom his exploits did not loom large in terms of figures. And his disappointing fielding had, according to them, invited the axe for the next Test.
But fighting indisposition, Gaekwad put up a brave front and helped. GR Viswanath takes India to a winning position. That one knock settled doubts about his capability and gave him the requisite confidence for the Bombay Test in which he enhanced his stature considerably. And yet, he shouldn’t have been playing at all but for injury to Sunil Gavaskar! But like Vivian Richards of the West Indies, who got his spurs when Lawrence Rowe was rendered hors de combat by eye trouble, and clinched his place in the side with performance, Anshuman too has created a niche for himself in the India middle-order.
When Anshuman Gaekwad was included in the India squad for the first Test against the West Indies this season, the reactions ranged from surprise to disapproval. It shouldn’t have been so. He certainly wasn’t a ‘surprise’ choice, for he had good performances to his name — he was the first to knock up a hundred against the tourists in the Universities match at Indore.
The disapproval came from frustrated, envious ex-players in whose times talent was not recognized early enough. Today, things have changed, thanks to the progressive-minded selectors who pick youngsters for potential and class and do not go by statistics alone. Tall, wiry, and bespectacled, Anshuman Gaekwad, the 22 years old lad, is not as raw a hand as many imagine. He has been playing Ranji Trophy cricket for Baroda for the last five years and led the side this season — perhaps the youngest skipper on the current first-class scene.
His batting is steady, without any flourishes. He is able to get to the pitch of the ball remarkably well. This he does better to the quicker bowlers than the spinners against whom he has a marked weakness. If he could, learn to play by watching the bowler’s hand rather than off the wicket, part of his problems against spin could be solved. His inability to attack slow bowling could be because of the fact that he keeps more than the desired distance between his hands while gripping the bat. That denies him the freedom to move the bat as he would like, for attractive stroke play.
Another reason for his cramped stroke play could be that he has played most of his cricket on matting wickets. He realizes that and knows the way out is by more practice on turf. Hence he is considering offers to play for office clubs in Bombay. The son of former India skip-per Dattajirao Gaekwad, who led the India side to England in 1959, Anshuman has had thorough grooming under his father’s Test colleague, Jaisingh Ghorpade, now a national selector. He began playing cricket for Mahrani Chimnabai High School, Baroda, later wearing the Baroda and West Zone Schools’ colors. Since then he has been, playing for M. S. University. He is currently studying for M. Com
In his debut season for Baroda in 1969-70 he went in to bat at number nine. When he made runs consistently in that position the, Baroda selectors realized his all-around potential and soon he was batting at numbers three, four, or five. “I think I’ve made most of any runs at number five, and the middle-order suits me just fine,” he says.
He said he began thinking of the India cap only last season as he began batting confidently. He scored 323 from seven innings in the Ranji Trophy with a personal best of 155 against Maharashtra at Poona. That the selectors had marked him down in their list was evident when he was picked for the Rest of India’s side for the Karmarkar benefit `match at the end of last season he scored 38 and starred in a 129-run-fourth-wicket stand with Pataudi, who hit a scintillating century.
He has kept up his good form this season as well. About his century at Indore, he said he did not make haste and simply let the runs come. He does seem to miss a few singles here and there, though that can easily be remedied with more practice in a higher class of cricket where each run counts and has to be earned. For one who began as an off-spinner, hasn’t he had less success with the ball?
He agreed and stressed that he was concentrating on both departments. He will better do so. Prasanna isn’t getting any younger and Anshuman Gaekwad could make an ideal deputy to Venkatraghavan .in a couple of years’ time. Players of all-around talent are as scarce today as they are invaluable to a Test side. Anshuman Gaekwad’s place in India’s future scheme of things is assured.