`In cricket, there are good times and bad' -Vinod Kambli               Bombay Times |27/11/1999

Does one feel sad about the fate that has befallen Vinod Ganpat Kambli, one-time star on the rise, now star on the wane? While there are those who will say that Kambli has only got what he asked for, there are many who feel that the best is yet to come from this southpaw, who once said that he took the stairs while his pal, Sachin Tendulkar, took the elevator.

Well, Sachin may have taken the elevator, but he never let the heights get to him. He stayed firmly on course, with his eyes set on greater glory. Kambli too reached those heights — he was the first to score two double hundreds, against England and Zimbabwe, while Sachin got his only recently — but he could not handle the
fame and fortune that came with it. Was it a case of too much too soon for this lad from Kanjurmarg? Well, when one looks back at his career, it certainly looks like that. So where did Kambli go wrong?

"He was surrounded by all the wrong type of friends," say people close to him. Kambli the boy suddenly became Kambli the man and he swiftly discovered `friends'. He arguably began to take cricket for granted and before he knew it, was out of the Indian team. He was axed on disciplinarian grounds after the 1996 World Cup. "I don't know what disciplinary action is being taken against me," he had said then, in a telephonic interview from his home in Pune. He seemed tight-lipped, not wanting any controversy. "I have not been informed about it by the Board," he had added.

There were rumours about him migrating to New Zealand with his wife Noella. But he had said that they were all "stupid rumours. I don't know how I have been quoted when I haven't spoken to anyone. I can't think of leaving my country or going anywhere else."

Leaving India was definitely the last thing on his mind, getting into the team a priority. He got his chance but he never was the same Kambli. At the back of his mind, there was always pressure to perform as he had to get into the act of yet again cementing his place in the team. By then, Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid
had already made inroads into the team and each passing match for Kambli was a test in a way. He had certainly got entangled in a mess of his own making.

He played a few One-day tournaments in Sri Lanka, Toronto and Sharjah, was rested a couple of times, made a comeback in April '98, but unfortunately injured his ankle. That was a painful blow and he took months to recover. He made yet another comeback in March '99, was in the list of probables for the World Cup, but he never made it to the final 15. He did make it to the team though, for a brief period, after Sachin regained the captaincy in August.

At the moment, Kambli has no long-term plans. Speaking from his hotel room in Baroda, he says, "Presently, I am just thinking about my cricket. I want to get back into the Indian team and stay there for a longer time. Enough of being in and out." Ask him if he threw it all away and he is quick on the draw: "Nothing like that. Luck also plays an important part and you should be lucky at times. In cricket, there are good times and bad." His parents, besides his fans, he says, encourage him the most. "They always tell me not to lose heart. Even they feel bad when I am out of the team," says Kambli.

To get back in, Kambli has a huge task ahead of him. For the moment, though, he has made it to the India `A' team. Like he says, it's all about taking "one step at a time."

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Copyright 2006 Martin D'Souza. All rights reserved.