Obituary, 2008

Dilip Sardesai

ESPNcricinfo staff

Dilip Sardesai batting in England in 1971 © Playfair Cricket Monthly

Sardesai, Dilip Narayan, who died on July 2, 2007, aged 66, was an important player for India in an era when the team was becoming ever more competitive. An adaptable batsman, strong against both pace and spin, Sardesai won 30 Test caps, often as an opener before dropping down to bolster the middle order. He made 87 on his first-class debut, for Indian Universities against the 1960-61 Pakistan tourists, but took a while to establish himself in the mighty Bombay side, playing only four Ranji Trophy matches before his Test debut against England the following season. Three years later, facing the axe after India's embarrassing slump to 88 all out against New Zealand at Bombay's Brabourne Stadium, he made an undefeated 200 in the follow-on. That match-saving innings spanned 548 minutes, but Sardesai proved he could attack as well as defend in the next Test, when his hundred came up in little more than two hours.

He was a fringe player for a while after his 1967 England tour was disrupted by injuries, but when Ajit Wadekar took over as captain for the tour of the West Indies early in 1971, he insisted that Sardesai be included, and his faith was handsomely repaid. That series is remembered now mainly for Sunil Gavaskar's dramatic emergence - but Sardesai got the ball rolling in the first match with a superb 212, which rescued his side from 75 for five. "He showed us how to play fast bowling," said Gavaskar, "and in doing so gave us the confidence we needed to beat the West Indies. One of his great strengths was that he was always very positive, and he spread that through the team."

Sardesai made another hundred in the next Test, which India won, then contributed a back-to-the-wall 150 at Bridgetown as West Indies tried and failed to square the series. He also played his part on the England tour that followed, chiefly with two reassuring innings in the nervy final Test at The Oval, where victory gave India their first series win in England to follow their first in the Caribbean. He won only one more Test cap before retiring aged only 32, at the end of the 1972-73 home season. During his entire career, which spanned 13 seasons, Bombay never lost a Ranji Trophy match with Sardesai in the side: he played in ten finals, scoring 199 against Rajasthan in 1966-67, and they were champions every year. His son, Rajdeep, was an Oxford Blue, and later became a senior editor with the CNN news channel.

© John Wisden & Co.