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Sanjeev Sharma calls it a day

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, NOV. 16. Sanjeev Sharma, who played two Tests for India, announced his retirement from competitive cricket on Tuesday. "Not that I lacked the motivation to continue but I thought it was time to look ahead. I would love to see some youngsters take over,'' said the 39-year-old Sanjeev.

Sanjeev also figured in 23 one-day internationals for India, his best coming against the West Indies on a placid track at Sharjah. He took 22 wickets in the one-dayers, with five for 26 coming against the West Indies in the Champions Trophy tournament in Sharjah in 1988, one of his finest spells in a career that lasted two decades.

"My six for 16 against Bengal last year was my most memorable bowling. There was nothing in the pitch and Bengal was doing well at 75 for two. I got the ball to reverse swing," said Sanjeev, who claimed nine wickets in the match.

He played two Tests — against New Zealand and England in 1989 and 1990. The Test against England happened to be his last. Incidentally, Graham Gooch hit 333 in that Test at Lord's but not before he was dropped on 33 by wicketkeeper Kiran More off Sanjeev. "I won't blame anyone but that became an unforgettable moment. I was never considered after that match even though I bowled well in the Texaco Trophy. I was very disappointed.

`I felt neglected'

"My career would have been longer but I lacked support from the team. I was lonely and felt neglected. In hindsight, I might have also done better if I had been mentally tougher," said Sanjeev, a big underachiever considering his talent.

On the domestic front, Sanjeev played 89 first class matches for Delhi (1983-90), Railways (1990-01) and Rajasthan (1999-2003-04). The seven-year gap was forced by his professional appearance in the Dhaka league and later in the minor leagues in Ireland and England.

The last four seasons he made a mark as a coach-cum-player and took pride as he gained his place by performing consistently. "It was one of the most enjoyable phases of my career. I could do some justice to my potential as an all-rounder," said Sanjeev, who was a tailender for India but middle-order batsman for Rajasthan, hitting three centuries.

Sanjeev was influenced by watching his Sonnet Club-mate Raman Lamba. "He was my idol, the best professional cricketer I ever met. He got me the contracts for playing in Dhaka and Ireland and always supported me." Ironically, Sanjeev watched Lamba breath his last during a match in Dhaka. "I was in the dressing room when I saw him being hit (on the temple). He never recovered. It was the most depressing moment of my life watching my mentor die," said Sanjeev who plans to open an academy to share his experience with young cricketers as a tribute to his former mate.

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