Bishan Singh Bedi, one of India’s greatest bowlers, paid glowing tribute to domestic cricket stalwart Rajinder Goel, who died at the age of 77 on Sunday due to age-related illnesses.

In a column for The Indian Express, Bedi wrote that he was “fondest” of Goel among all his contemporaries.

Goel is considered by many to be the finest Indian cricketer to have never played for the country. The former left-arm spinner played 157 first-class matches in a career spanning 26 years. He took a staggering 750 wickets (the most by an Indian in first-class cricket), with 59 five-fors and 18 ten-wicket hauls.

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Rajinder Goel's Ranji Trophy stats:

Seasons Mat Wkts Ave 5-fors 10 WM
1958-59 to 1975-76 74 318 19.23 22 5
1976-77 to 1984-85 49 319 15.34 31 12
Total career 123 637 17.28 53 17
Courtesy: ESPNCricinfo

One of the reasons why Goel missed out on playing for India was the presence of of the great spin quartet of Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, S Venkataraghavan and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar during his time. Bedi was the first-choice left-arm spinner in the Indian team for the most part, which meant that Goel had to contend with plying his trade in domestic cricket.

“The courage with which he [Goel] accepted the verdict and carried on serving cricket most selflessly is exemplary,” Bedi wrote in his column.

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Most wickets in Ranji Trophy by bowlers who never played for India:

Player Mat Wkts Ave
Rajinder Goel 123 637 17.28
Basant Mohanty 90 367 20.22
Padmakar Shivalkar 74 361 17.78
Ashish Zaidi 93 348 26.15
Sarkar Talwar 100 345 24.22
Courtesy: ESPNCricinfo

Bedi conceded that he was luckier than Goel to play for India but also stated that there were certain attributes to his senior that made him stand out from the rest.

“Goel was almost robotic in his bowling pattern, and was a captain’s delight,” wrote Bedi.

“He never asked for any particular end or field placement. ‘Just give me one over to find my rhythm,’ he’d say confidently. And then he would go about his job with mechanical precision. The only people who had to be on their toes were the batsmen facing him.”

Also read – Indian cricket has lost a giant: BCCI chief Sourav Ganguly pays a tribute to Rajinder Goel

Rajinder Goel's overall career stats

Mat Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10
First-class 157 750 8/55 18.58 2.10 53.0 59 18
List A 8 14 4/54 4/54 20.00 3.30 36.2 1 0 0
Swipe sideways to view full table

Among the top-ten highest wicket-takers in the Ranji Trophy, Goel is the only one who didn’t play for India.

“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,” former India captain Sourav Ganguly was quoted as saying in a statement released by the BCCI.

“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.”

Indeed, Goel was a stalwart of Indian cricket. And as Bedi said, an exemplary professional who will act as an inspiration for generations to come.

(All stats courtesy ESPNCricinfo)