Domestic cricket stalwart Rajinder Goel died on Sunday after suffering from illness for quite some time. He was 77 and breathed his last at his residence.
A left—arm spinner, while Goel never managed to break into the Indian team, he took 750 wickets in a 24—year career for Haryana. He also represented Punjab and Delhi. Goel also holds the record for most wickets in the Ranji Trophy. He leads the tally with 637 wickets. Goel received the CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017 from the BCCI for his service to Indian cricket.
"It is a huge loss for the game of cricket and a personal loss for me which has left a huge void. He was one of the best, if not the best left-arm spinner that this country has seen and his record of 750 first-class wickets speaks for his tremendous ability," former BCCI President Ranbir Singh Mahendra said.
"He represented Haryana, Delhi and Punjab in the Ranji Trophy. His contribution to the game post his retirement was massive and he would eagerly watch even an inter-district game in search for talent and remained the pivot for selection of Haryana cricket teams till he regretfully laid down his office on account of the Lodha recommendations.
"He was a thorough gentleman who remained active till the very end. In his passing, the cricket world has lost one of its finest jewels. I will miss him deeply," he added.
"Sh. Rajinder Goel ji was a legend and one of the strongest foundations of the Haryana Cricket Association. His contribution to the development of cricket and identification of talent in Haryana is immense. On behalf of the Association, I mourn his passing and extend our condolences to Sh. Nitin Goel and his family," Haryana Cricket Association President Kultar Singh Malik said.
Born to an assistant station master in the Indian Railways, Goel first tasted success for North Zone schools in 1957 when he snared four wickets against West Zone in the final of the All-India schools tournament and was declared the best bowler of the tournament.
He made his Ranji debut in the next season. He began his first-class career with Patiala, which then evolved into the Southern Punjab team. He moved to Delhi in 1963 and Haryana ten years later.
Goel never played for India officially but appeared against Ceylon in an unofficial Test at Ahmedabad in 1964-65 where he took four wickets in the second innings. He never got a look in because of Bishan Singh Bedi who bowled in a similar style.
"Hard work, practice, and some intellect on how to play the batsman -- these are mandatory. Without practice you will not be able to master line and length, which are key to defeat the batsman," he had said to ESPNCricinfo in 2017 when asked what constitutes a good spinner.
There was a time when Bedi was axed from the Indian team for the Bangalore Test against the West Indies in 1974-75. Goel got a look in but as fate would have it, he was excluded at the last moment. He also bagged 6/102 and 3/43 against the Australians in 1979-80.
Deeply saddened by the passing away of Shri Rajinder Goel, the highest wicket-taker in the history of Ranji Trophy. My heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones. pic.twitter.com/6wIOfolnJc— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) June 21, 2020
Goel traumatised batsmen from the 1960s to the late-1980s with his guile.
BCCI President Sourav Ganguly led the way as the Indian cricket fraternity paid homage to the veteran spinner.
"The Indian cricketing community has lost a giant of domestic cricket today. His staggering record tells you about his craft and the control he had over it," Ganguly said in a BCCI statement.
"To have a career that lasts more than 25 years and still be able to perform consistently speaks about his dedication and commitment towards the game. To be able to pick 750 wickets needs years and years of hard work and I salute his efforts. I extend my heartfelt condolences to his family," he added.
In a career spanning 27 years, Goel -- a left-arm spinner par excellence -- picked up 750 first-class wickets with an average of 18.58. He played first-class cricket till the age of 44 and represented Patiala, Delhi, Southern Punjab and Haryana.
India head coach Ravi Shastri tweeted: RIP Rajinder Goel ji. Master of his craft. Killer line & length in our terrain. Humility personified. Condolences to the entire family."
"Rest in peace Rajinder Goel Sir. My thoughts and prayers with the family. God bless your soul," Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan tweeted.
"Deeply saddened by the passing away of Rajinder Goel, the highest wicket-taker in the history of Ranji Trophy. My heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones," former Indian batsman Laxman said on the micro-blogging website.
Jay Shah, Honorary Secretary of BCCI, said in a statement: "Rajinder Goel Ji was a true servant of Indian cricket. He was a role model for many current and upcoming spinners."
"His longevity should inspire upcoming cricketers to excel and improve every time they take the field. BCCI honoured him with Col. CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. I extend my condolences to his family in this hour of grief."
Arun Singh Dhumal, Honorary Treasurer, BCCI said: "Rajinder Goel Ji was a stalwart. He continued to be associated with the game even post his retirement and often turned up to watch young kids play and always extended his guidance."
"He is the highest wicket-taker in the history of Ranji Trophy. My heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones."
"Have always been staggered by the records of Shivalkar & Rajinder Goel. Here's Goel's FC record for you - 157 matches, 750 wickets! 59 five wicket hauls & 18 times 10 wkts in a match. Avg -18.58. That's bradmanesque in bowling - 5 wkts every 2.6 matches. RIP Goel Sir," tweeted cricketer-turned-commentator Sanjay Manjrekar.