I notice Vinod Kambli was rushed to hospital last week. It was a different Kambli from the person I knew. I found myself wishing for his health but increasingly when it became clear that he would be fine I found myself wishing for some stability in his life. I don’t know if he seeks it but it has dodged him for a long time now. If there is a God, He drove a hard bargain with him; gave him the kind of talent others crave for but took away a lot of the skills you need to make the most of the talent.
Kambli didn’t become the cricketer he could have been, and that’s all right, very few do anyway, but increasingly in a mad search for attention, he became a caricature. He isn’t alone there either. Kambli these days is an example of what fleeting fame can do. It takes away the high but leaves you lusting for it. And this search has seen him put his finger on a self-destruct button and, sad to say, keep it permanently pressed. He makes the news for the wrong reasons and there is a large part of me that wants him to turn his back on the present and re-enter a world where he has a lot of goodwill; where people remember him with a warm smile; not just for the runs he once made but for the disarming guy you had no option but to like.
The Vinod I so grew to like had an amazing story to tell. Of carrying a kit bag bigger than him, of lugging it into the compartment where the fisherwomen sat because he couldn’t get space otherwise and, telling this himself with a laugh, of smelling of fish for the rest of the day! It should have been the story to beat all stories; of how an extraordinarily gifted young man fought the odds, struggled his way through, endured many many hardships to play for Bombay and then, so dramatically, for India.
The Vinod I knew could be disarming. He could play a prank on you and you would laugh with him. He could tell you a story and move you. And he could use his feet against spin better than anyone else you could see. Before his first ball in first class cricket he asked the batsman at the other end, the captain of Bombay Dilip