Former India all-rounder Bapu Nadkarni passed away in Mumbai on Friday (January 17) due to age-related ailments at the age of 86. He was well known for his stunning economy. Bapu Nadkarni made his India debut in December 1955 and went on to play 41 Test matches. He scored 1,414 runs at an average of 25.70 and picked up 88 wickets at 29.07.
But what defined his career best was his economy rate of 1.67, the second-best in history among all bowlers with 50 or more Test wickets. Bapu Nadkarni recorded Test match figures of 32-24-23-0 against Pakistan at Kanpur and 34-24-24-1 in Delhi during the 1960-61 home series.
“He came as assistant manager for quite a number of our tours,” said Sunil Gavaskar as he paid tribute to the great cricketer. “He was very encouraging. His favourite term from where we all learnt from was ‘chhodo mat (hang in there)’. He was gritty despite playing in the days when gloves and thigh pads were not very good, not much protective equipment as you would get hit, but still hang in there as he believed in chhodo mat. You are playing for India. That thing we learnt from him.
In his Test career, Bapu Nadkarni took four Test-match five-fors with his left-arm spin, including a match-winning 6 for 43 in Wellington, during India’s historic tour of New Zealand in 1967-68, when they won their first-ever overseas series. He played his last-ever Test on that tour only.
But Bapu Nadkarni will be always remembered for his historic performance with the ball in which he could not pick a single wicket. In the Chennai Test against England, he bowled 21 consecutive maiden overs and finished the innings with figures of 32-27-5-0. It still remains the most economical spell of 60 or more balls in Test cricket.
He was a handy batsman too. Bapu Nadkarni scored seven fifties and one hundred, an unbeaten 122 against England in Kanpur. He averaged 40.36 with the bat in first-class cricket, with 14 centuries. Bapu Nadkarni also scalped 500 wickets in 191 first-class appearances.