MUMBAI: In a news which left many in Mumbai cricket in mourning, former Mumbai wicketkeeper Sharad Hazare, who was ailing for some time, passed away at his residence in Four Bunglows, Andheri, on Monday morning. Incidentally, it was his 77th birthday- he was born on August 8, 1945.
Rated very highly as a wicketkeeper, and famous for standing up to the stumps even to pacers and pulling off electric stumpings, Hazare was a part of Bombay's (Mumbai) 'golden generation' - a team which created a record run of 15 consecutive Ranji Trophy titles-between 1958 and 1973. In 44 First-Class games, he effected 110 dismissals (81 catches & 29 stumpings) and scored 438 email@example.com.
In local cricket, he played for Tara Sports Club and PJ Hindu Gymkhana. He was unlucky to not play for India-the closest he came to an India cap was when he was a part of the squad for the Chepauk Madras (Chennai now) Test in the 1969 home series against Australia.
Rich tributes flowed for the highly-skilled gloveman. "He was one of the best wicketkeepers in India. Along with 'Paddy' (Padmalkar) Shivalkar and Pandurang Salgaonkar, he was one of the most unfortunate cricketers to have not played for India. He was a low-profile guy, and perhaps that worked against him. He was far better than a few 'keepers who went on to play for India," former India skipper Dilip Vengsarkar told TOI.
Describing what made Hazare special with the gloves, Vengsarkar said, "His hallmark was that he was extremely gutsy and had an excellent anticipation. He was so good behind the stumps that he never had to dive for anything. He was outstanding on the leg side, which is a difficult side for a 'keeper. He was one the few wicketkeepers who would stand up to the stumps to the fast bowlers. He would do that even in the nets. And mind you, he would do that without wearing any helmet or headgear! He was good on any track-turning or bouncing, pulling off brilliant catches and stumpings. He was a very dependable 'keeper."
"He was also a very useful batsman down the line. Whenever the team needed him to chip in with the bat in close games, he delivered," he added.
At Tata SC, Hazare mentored former India wicketkeeper Kiran More. "He was the best wicketkeeper in terms of standing up to fast bowlers in India. Since he was my senior at Tata SC, I learnt about how to do that a lot from him. He had beautiful, soft hands," praised More.
Hazare grew up in the same locality, near Bhatia Hospital, Tardeo as batting legend Sunil Gavaskar, Milind Rege and Sudhir Naik. "I've played with him for Tatas, Bombay (Mumbai) and West Zone. I, and Sudhir Naik and Hazare joined Tatas on the same day-August 2, 1968," recalled Rege. "He was mine and Sunil's idol, we used to be in awe of him! I don't recall Hazare dropping a single chance. The worse the wicket, the better his wicketkeeping would be, which is the hallmark of a great 'keeper. He was a natural, born to 'keep. He was one of the few cricketers who were never dropped from the Mumbai team even when our India stars were available," he reminisced.
Recalling a famous instance which illustrated Hazare's guts of steel, Rege said, "In a knockout game against Bengal, he kept wickets for us on all five days, and batted too, despite being hit on the mouth and receiving four stitches on the mouth. He couldn't eat anything, so was having soup with a straw."
Decoding why Hazare was so good while standing up to the quicks, Rege said, "He was in the (ex-India wicketkeeper) Naren Tamhane mould. Tamhane, who too played for the Tatas, was his guru. In our time, the nets would be just six inches or one foot behind the stumps. So, people like Hazare and Tamhane would stand up the 'keeper in practice even when the speedsters were bowling. This is also why he was a great leg-side 'keeper. Abdul Ismail would bowl his inswingers on the leg stump, and Hazare would stump the batsman. It wasn't easy to 'keep in the Times Shield in May on a turning track with Shivalkar bowling, but Hazare would do a fabulous job of it."
"When I was an under-15 cricketer, my guru, Naren Tamhane, would ask me to learn by watching him. He was outstanding," said ex-Mumbai 'keeper Sulakshan Kulkarni.