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
"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
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."