Former teammates praise late Solkar at his academy launch

Mumbai: Former South African fielding great Jonty Rhodes would have struggled to show his skills at forward short leg position, where the late Eknath Solkar excelled in the late 1960s and 1970s, feels Ravi Shastri.

"He (Jonty) would have had no chance at forward short leg as South Africa never had spinners. He wouldn`t have known how to field in that position, he would have been ordinary. I haven`t seen anyone come close to Ekki (Eknath Solkar) in forward short leg position," the former Indian all-rounder said at the launch of Eknath Solkar Academy at the Shivaji Park Gymkhana here.

He further said that Solkar created catches by anticipating the movements of the batsmen, adding that the fellow-Mumbaikar was the first Test player he had ever met.

Left-handed Solkar, whose Test career stretched between 1969 and 1976-77, played in 27 Tests, scoring 1,068 runs in 48 innings, mostly by batting doughtily lower down the order, averaging 25.42 with one century, a courageous knock of 102 against Clive Lloyd`s touring West Indians at Mumbai`s Wankhede stadium in 1974-75, and six half centuries.

Solkar also bagged 18 wickets with his mixture of slow left arm medium pace and spin, giving away 1070 runs at a costly 59.44 per wicket.

More memorably, he took 53 catches, mostly blinders and acrobatic ones, standing at short leg to the famed spin quartet of Bishen Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Srinivas Venkataraghavan.

Gundappa Vishwanath, one of India`s finest batsmen, said, he had fond memories of Solkar as they shared the room for many years.

"He made his debut against New Zealand in Hyderabad in 1969 and I was in the reserves of that team. He got out for a zero. I told him at night many of the great cricketers had scored a zero in their first match. When I made my debut in Kanpur, I scored a zero. He took all the names and said one Eknath Solkar also scored a zero," Vishwanath said.

Cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar said he had known Solkar since their school days and treated him as a hero, as he was the first one to play for the country from their group.

"During one of the matches, I was not in the best of forms and Eknath told me don`t worry youngster just watch me," the batting maestro said, remembering how Solkar had encouraged him.


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