The Greatest Indian Fielder Of All Time

Eknath Dhondu Solkar was born in Mumbai on 18th March 1948. He belonged to a humble family. He was one of the six children born to the grounds man at the P.J. Hindu Gymkhana in Mumbai. His talent was noticed at this Gymkhana as he started taking particular interest in Cricket. His commitment to the game is exemplified by his participation in the Ranji Trophy match Between Bombay and Bengal in 1968 when he did not pull out of the match even when his father passed away during the match.

Eknath Solkar started playing test cricket for India in 1969 and played until 1977. He was a test all rounder and probably India’s greatest fielder of all time. No one has done a better job than him as a close-in catcher. He was a forward short leg specialist. He was popularly known as `Ekki’. He played twenty seven test matches and seven one day matches. He made 1,028 test runs at an average of 25.83. These figures do not do justice to his strong reliability in the middle order. He took eighteen test wickets and twenty seven one day wickets. Moreover, he has taken fifty three test catches in only twenty seven matches, forty eight of them coming out of the bowling of the magnificent spin quartet of India in Bishen Bedi, Bhagwat Chanrasekhar, Errapalli Prasanna and Srinivasa Venkataraghavan.

Eknath Solkar was an extremely talented and fearless leg side close fielder whose ratio of catches per match has not been equalled in test cricket. His fifty three catches in twenty seven matches have given him a ratio of 1.96 catches per match. This is the best ratio of all time. Even though Jonty Rhodes qualifies as a superlative fielder of all time, he could not get Solkar’s strike rate in catching. In fact, the next best ratio belongs to Bobby Simpson of Australia who stood at 1.77 catches per match.

Though Eknath Solkar was an all rounder, he merited a place in a test match side purely for his fielding alone. Two decades after he left cricket, there was only one cricketer who could merit hat place in a test match for fielding alone and that was Jonty Rhodes of South Africa who went on to become the greatest fielder that the game of cricket has probably seen.

Eknath Solkar was a slow left arm military medium pace bowler. Indian bowling attack was never recognised in history until the arrival of Kapil Dev Nikhanj for its pace potential. It was always the magical spin influence of the famous quartet that got India all its recognition in the bowling department. Eknath Solkar and Syed Abed Ali were only meant to take the shine away from the new ball so that Bishen Bedi and company would be able to grip the ball better and start tweaking it to weave their spin traps.

Some of the batsmen acknowledged that when Eknath Solkar took his place at forward short leg, he was close enough to pick their back pockets. India’s first series win abroad in West Indies and England in 1971 became possible on account of Sunil Gavaskar, the famous spin quartet, the able leadership of Ajit Wadekar and the plucky fielding of Eknath Solkar.

He is remembered for his two famous quotes to great cricketers. One is to Sir Geoffrey Boycott when he told him, “I will get you out, bloody!” And the other is to Sir Garfield Sobers when he was bowling to him and Sobers was taunting him for his military medium pace when Solkar told him, “You play your game and I will play mine”.

He passed away at a young age of 57 when he died in Mumbai on 26th June 2005 suffering a severe heart attack. There is a cricket Academy in his name at the Grand Medical College Grounds at Marine Lines, Mumbai. Bishen Singh Bedi has commented that he was one of the bowlers who benefited greatly from Solkar’s extra ordinary quick reflexes and anticipation qualities, acknowledging that he would not be a successful bowler if not for Eknath Solkar.

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Eknath Solkar , Cricket


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