Former Indian wicketkeeper Naren Tamhane died in Mumbai on March 19, 2002. He was suffering a prolonged battle with cancer. Tamhane 70, is survived with his wife and two sons. He had been fighting the disease for the past year and died in hospital. Tamhane, who also served as head national selector and Indian team manager, played 21 Tests, making his Test debut on the 1954-55 tour to Pakistan.
He took 35 catches and completed 16 stumpings, scoring 225 runs at an average of 10.22. He was born in Bombay on August 4, 1931. The finest Indian wicketkeeper in the era between Probir Sen, and Farokh Engineer. Naren Tamhane was neat and sound in his work behind the stumps.
Agile and alert, little missed Tamhane’s quick eye and reflexes. He was equally adept while keeping pacing and spinning and displaced fine anticipation while bringing off diving catches or smart stumping. However, he was not flashy and concentrated on being safe and dependable.
While still a student in Bombay, he was picked for two Tests against the touring Commonwealth team in 1953-54 and immediately made an impact by catching three and stumping four in his first game at New Delhi. On his Test debut in Pakistan the following season, Tamhane claimed five victims. He played in all five Tests finishing with 19 dismissals.
He was the first choice wicketkeeper for the country until the series against Pakistan in 1960-61. But after that, he lost his place to Budhi Kunderan, a better batsman but not in the same class as Tamhane behind the stumps. He played against New Zealand in 1955-56, against Australia in 1956-57, against West Indies in 1958-59 and against Australia in 1959-60. He also toured England in 1959 when in all first-class matches he had 49 dismissals.
A more than useful batsman, Tamhane scored a valuable unbeaten 54 top score at No 9 in his second Test match at Bahawalpur. Coming in when seven wickets had fallen for just 107 and with Fazal Mehmood and Khan Muhammad on the rampage, he helped India to reach a score of 235.
On his debut in the Ranji Trophy in 1953-54 against Baroda, Tamhane accounted for seven victims six of them caught. In a first-class career that stretched for almost two decades extended from 1951-52 to 1968-69. Tamhane had 253 dismissals, 174 of them caught. His career highest score was 109 not out against Baroda in 1958-59. Moreover out of a total of 1,459 run average 18.23 in 93 first-class matches.
It was not until Tamhane appeared on the scene during the 1954-55 series in Pakistan. That it was obvious that India had acquired its first world-class wicketkeeper. He was the country’s first choice from 1955 till 1960. Those were the days when Test matches were not as frequent as they are now. And yet Tamhane played in 21 Tests, finishing with an impressive tally of 35 catches and 16 stumpings.
He held all the major Indian wicketkeeping records till Engineer and Kirmani came along and a major reason for this was the fact that they played many more Tests. Tamhane started off with 19 victims in his first series It is a record that stands to this day and has been equaled only once by Kirmani during the Six test series against Pakistan in 1979-80. The Indian wicketkeeping slot was safe in Tamhane’s steady hands.
He was not one of those flamboyant characters. He believed in doing his work with quiet efficiency. Neat and tidy were the adjectives chiefly used to describe Tamhane’s stints behind the stumps. If he was not showy or brilliant, but he was also not known to drop catches and miss stumping.
Tamhane read the spin bowling very guile of Subhash Gupte, Ghulam Ahmed, and Vinoo Mankad so well. It was said he could have fared better against them in front of the stumps than some of the batsmen from the opposing team. But that was equally adept at keeping to medium pace bowlers and struck a good combination with Phadkar and Ramchand Desai and Surendranath. After cricketing affairs, Tamhane served on the selection committees for Mumbai and India which selected Sachin Tendulkar for first-class and international cricket.