Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement is the flavour of the season without doubt. Fellow Mumbaikar Ajit Agarkar’s decision to retire also grabbed a few headlines. But, in this retirement season, there has been another veteran who has called it quits, but his announcement has pretty much gone unnoticed. He has never played for India, but has been a giant on the domestic circuit, representing Saurashtra for over two decades with distinction. As he retires at the age of 41, we look back at his glorious run in first-class cricket for Saurashtra.
Kotak made his debut against Mumbai at Mumbai in the 1992-93 season, and such has been his consistency and dedication towards Saurashtra that he has never missed a season. His career numbers tell the story of his consistency. 129 matches, 7996 runs at an average of 42 with 15 hundreds and 54 fifties. While the stats are impressive he would have liked to have converted more of those half-centuries into bigger hundreds for a player of his stature. Also, he never got a double hundred, which is perhaps one of the key reasons why he never came close to India selection.
His numbers indicate that he wasn’t the most talented batsman around, but there is no taking away from the fact he was one of the most hardworking cricketers on the domestic circuit, which is why he survived for so long in spite of never getting enough recognition. The greatest asset of Kotak’s batting was his ability to stonewall the opponents to such an extent that he literally put people to sleep. Kotak’s top score actually came a few seasons back when he was in his late 30s. In a 2007-08 game against Mumbai, Kotak held fort for 796 minutes for his 168 not out, literally killing Mumbai out of frustration.
While this knock of his was standout, Kotak compiled an entire career playing such stubborn innings. The left-handed veteran had a big role to play in the evolution of Saurashtra from a weak side to a strong one. During the early days, Kotak singlehandedly held fort for the side, but towards the end of his career, he saw the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja and Jaydev Unadkat blossom, all of whom currently play for India. Playing in last year’s Ranji Trophy final against Mumbai was the greatest Kotak moment for sure, although Mumbai won convincingly.
Like Amol Muzumdar, Kotak was also unlucky to have played his best during the era of Rahul Dravid. Muzumdar, Kotak and Dravid all entered the domestic arena around the same time, and all had a similar style of play. With Sanjay Manjrekar running out of favour, India first went to Dravid ahead of Muzumdar and Kotak, and Karnataka batsman did not give any other batsman the chance to occupy his spot in the side for the next 15 years. Kotak was unlucky that he played in a weak side for most part, but will always be remembered as the Dravid of India’s domestic circuit. --By A Cricket Analyst