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The Ganguly lot: The spinners who debuted under Dada & what they have done since

India Spinners Ganguly
by Sankalp Srivastava 4 minute read

Six spinners made their Test or ODI debut for India under the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly, but none of them was able to take the international arena by storm. We take a look at the international career of each of them.

The great spinning duo of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh formed an integral part of Sourav Ganguly’s dynasty, with them being two of the only three bowlers to take more than 200 international wickets under his captaincy.

The former India captain, however, wasn’t the one to bring the Kumble-Harbhajan pair to the international stage; they both made their debuts with Mohammad Azharuddin at the helm. He did hand debuts to six other tweakers, but none of them managed to make it as big as the two aforementioned giants.

Below are the spinners who made their Test or ODI debut under Ganguly and how their respective careers panned out.

Sarandeep Singh

3 Tests, 10 wickets @34.00
5 ODIs, 3 wickets @ 60.00

The off-spinner made his Test debut as a 21-year-old in Ganguly’s first year as India’s full-time captain following the resignation of Sachin Tendulkar. His first Test came against Zimbabwe in Nagpur in November 2000, as he replaced Murali Kartik for the second match of the series. Sarandeep returned figures of 6-206 but in what was a run-fest with four hundreds and two double hundreds scored, every other performance was overshadowed by Andy Flower’s second innings rescue act; he made 232* following on to salvage a draw for the tourists.

Sarandeep had to wait a year for his second Test appearance and another five months for the third, which was also his last. In ODIs too he couldn’t quite cement his spot, playing five matches against five different sides in three bilateral series and a tri-series between January 2002 and April 2003. He continued to ply his trade with some success in domestic cricket until 2009, and is now a national selector.

Rahul Sanghvi

1 Test, 2 wickets @ 39.00
10 ODIs, 10 wickets @ 39.90

The left-arm spinner debuted in ODIs under Mohammad Azharuddin’s captaincy in 1998, playing 10 matches within a year before getting sidelined. Strong performances for Delhi brought him back in the national reckoning and he was ultimately picked for the famous 2001 Test series against Australia. But Sanghvi played only the first Test in Mumbai, where India were hammered by the visitors, and was then dropped as India went on to script one of the most memorable series wins in their history.

He never played an international match again, and within six years, he had played his last professional game.

Ramesh Powar

2 Tests, 6 wickets @ 19.66
31 ODIs, 34 wickets @ 35.02

First selected for the ODI leg of India’s 2004 tour to Pakistan, Powar played the second and third ODIs, both of which India lost, and was then dropped. He impressed more fans than he disappointed, however, in his short first ODI stint. Powar took India to the cusp of a big win on debut, scoring an 11-ball 18 while batting with the tail, with India finishing 12 runs short of Pakistan’s 330-run target. The off-spinner returned to the ODI arena after a gap of two years, this time for India’s 2006 tour of Pakistan under Rahul Dravid’s leadership and became a temporary main stay, playing 28 more ODIs in the next year and a half.

He made two Test appearances as well, both against Bangladesh in 2007 and under Dravid’s captaincy. Powar continued toiling in the domestic circuit until 2015 and also represented Kings XI Punjab and Kochi Tuskers Kerala in the IPL. He has since served as head coach of India Women for a time.

Sairaj Bahutule

2 Tests, 3 wickets @ 67.66
8 ODIs, 2 wickets @ 141.50

Sairaj Bahutule’s career was almost over before it had begun. At the age of 17, he was involved in a tragic car accident where he lost one of his friends, went into a coma, broke his leg so severely that he had to have a metal rod inserted. Seven years later, he made his ODI debut for India under Azharuddin in December 1997 and played six more ODIs in the next month.

A Test call up came after a wait of nearly three years – the leg-spinner was selected for the third and deciding match of the 2001 India-Australia Test series in Chennai – as Anil Kumble’s injury paved his way into the squad. While he did pick up two crucial wickets to help seal one of the most famous results in Indian cricket history, dismissing Mark Waugh and Justin Langer in the first and second innings respectively, with Harbhajan taking 15 of the 20 Australian wickets to fall in the match and cementing his place as a first-choice spinner, opportunities were always likely to be sparing. Bahutule’s second and last Test came against Sri Lanka later that year.

He made an ODI appearance in 2003, against New Zealand in Cuttack, but wasn’t selected for the national team again. However, with 630 first-class wickets at 26 to go with 6,176 runs at 32, including nine hundreds, he had a Ranji Trophy career to be proud of.

Amit Mishra

22 Tests, 76 wickets @ 35.72
36 ODIs, 64 wickets @ 23.60
10 T20Is, 16 wickets @ 15.00

Mishra made his ODI debut as a 20-year-old in 2003 under Ganguly, playing in three matches of a tri-series involving Bangladesh and South Africa in Anil Kumble’s absence. The leg-spinner had to wait for five more years for his next India appearance but this time it came in whites, again in Anil Kumble’s absence, in the Mohali Test against Australia in 2008. And he became only the sixth Indian bowler to pick a five-for on debut in the match.

Even though Kumble retired as Mishra’s Test career started, he couldn’t quite cut it at the international arena, making sporadic appearances until England’s 2016 tour of India, when both of his final Test and ODI appearances came. He continued impressing in the IPL, however, and is now the second-highest wicket-taker in the history of the tournament with 160 wickets.

Murali Kartik

8 Tests, 24 wickets @ 34.16
37 ODIs, 37 wickets @ 43.56
1 T20I, 0 wicket

The left-arm spinner made his Test debut under Tendulkar’s captaincy in 2000 but with Harbhajan and Kumble ruling the roost, he couldn’t cement a spot in the side even though he was impressive in parts. His best performance came in the 2004 Mumbai Test against Australia when he took seven wickets to help India to a win.

On the ODI front, it was Ganguly who handed him the debut, against Zimbabwe in 2002. Kartik’s best hour in ODIs, like in Tests, came against Australia in Mumbai when his 6-27 helped bowl out an Australian side featuring the likes of Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds for 193. He was then involved in a 52-run partnership for the ninth wicket with Zaheer Khan to help India chase down the total.

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