Metronomic and economical bowling is one of the hallmarks of a great bowler. By metronomic, it means hitting the right line and length on a consistent basis and not giving away runs to the batsmen. By economical, it means not conceding too many runs during a lengthy period of time. For the modern cricket fan, these two factors are summed up by Australian pacer Glenn McGrath, who is best remembered for his unerring line and length in Tests in addition to his 563 wickets. However, there is one Indian bowler who trumped Glenn McGrath when it came to metronomic and economical bowling. Just consider these stats. An economy rate of 1.67 in 41 Tests is a freakish achievement in Tests. However, this bowler achieved something even greater during his playing time in the 1960s.
This is the story of Bapu Nadkarni, a slow left-arm orthodox spinner who was born in Maharashtra. He made his Test debut in the series against New Zealand in 1955. Despite not featuring regularly in the Indian cricket team, Nadkarni had some magnificent moments in the 1960s, most notably in the 1964 Test against England in Chennai. In that match, Nadkarni created history by bowling 21 consecutive maidens and 131 dot balls. This was a new world record in Tests and he ended with figures of 32-27-5-0, an economy rate of 0.15.
This was not the first time that Nadkarni had such economical figures. In the Test match against Pakistan in 1961 at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi, Nadkarni had figures of 34-24-24-1 and 52.4-38-43-4. His combined figures of 86.4-62-67-5 at an economy rate of 0.7 was a perfect example of economical bowling. In his playing career, Nadkarni took 88 wickets in 41 Tests and is best remembered for a haul of 11/122 against Australia in Chennai in 1964.
Years later, Nadkarni spoke about how he managed to bowl 21 consecutive maidens. “They had six players unfit. They could not have been able to bat. They had bad tummies. So they had to adopt that tactic. If they would have not done it, we would have won the game. I have never changed my game plan when it came to my bowling. I was 80-90 percent successful in my plan of trying to test the patience of the batsmen,” Nadkarni said.
After 55 years, Nadkarni stands tall in his achievement and in the age of attacking cricket, his record might stand the test of time even.