Art of Games

Kanwar Virdi dismissed Inzamam-ul-Haq in 1988, but injury ended his promising career

Kanwar Virdi dismissed Inzamam-ul-Haq in 1988, but injury ended his promising career
Written by Noah Roy

Part 3: The Chandigarh railway station was Kanwar Virdi’s “second home” for more than two decades before he rediscovered his love for the game three years ago. In 2019, the local association made the former pacer turned ticket examiner one of its selectors; The man who opened India’s bowling against Pakistan in the inaugural Youth World Cup in 1988 is now keen to learn the art of coaching.

Virdi’s promising career was cut short at only seven first-class games for Haryana after a stress fracture of the back. But he has some fond memories, the foremost being dismissing Inzamam-ul-Haq in the only game he got in the Youth World Cup.

“Inzamam was my first wicket, I remember (Venkatapathy) Raju took the catch. The second wicket was of Zulfiqar Butt,” Virdi told The Indian Express.

“The best part was when Pakistan coach Wasim Raja (PCB chief Ramiz Raja’s late brother) came to our dressing room and told me, ‘son, you’ve great control on your swing, and I can see you playing for India in a couple of years.’

“Probably every future great cricketer played in that tournament. Brian Lara was captain of West Indies, Sanath Jayasuriya was playing for Sri Lanka. Mike Atherton and Nasser Hussain were playing for England; Inzamam, Mushtaq Ahmed and Aaqib Javed for Pakistan; Chris Cairns for New Zealand,” recalls Virdi.

Raj Singh Dungarpur was impressed with Virdi’s bowling, and fast-tracked him into the Board Presiden’t XI in 1989 for the one-day Wills Trophy. Later that year, he was picked for the India camp ahead of the Pakistan tour.

“Sunil Gavaskar came to me and said that I was going to Pakistan. I was elated and called up my family. The next morning, my name was not in the tour party. Salil Ankola was picked ahead of me. I was furious and confronted Gavaskar. He told me, ‘this is not the end of the world, you will get more chances in future.’”

Gavaskar invited Virdi to move to Mumbai, but his financial condition was not good, so he stayed back in Chandigarh. Dennis Lillee next handpicked Virdi for the MRF Pace Foundation, but thereafter, the stress fracture meant he was never the same bowler again.

“I knew my career was over, and turned my focus on my studies. I completed my undergraduation from the DAV College in Chandigarh, and in 1993, I got the job of TTE in Railways, and Chandigarh railway station is my second home since.”

In 2019, Chandigarh got BCCI affiliation, giving Virdi a new lease of life. He was appointed men’s U-19 selector, and presently, is women’s chief selector.

“For 26 years, I was doing my regular job, traveling from one place to another on the train. In 2019, when UTCA was formally founded, it gave me a second wind. The love for cricket was reignited. I want to be more active in cricket. I want to do coaching courses from NCA.”

From the current U-19 team, Virdi rates Chandigarh all-rounder Raj Angad Bawa highly. “I have followed Raj Angad’s development very closely. I can vouch he will play for India.”

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Noah Roy

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