Former Indian spinner Nilesh Kulkarni recalled an instance from his international career when he was a part of a wearing Test match against Sri Lanka in Colombo in August 1997.
On this day (August 2) 24 years ago, it was the Test debut for a 25-year-old Kulkarni at the R.Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. Ironically, Kulkarni picked the wicket of Sri Lanka opener Marvan Atapattu on the very first ball of his match. But, the Indian spinner went wicketless for the rest of the game, where he bowled a total of 70 overs.
Nilesh Kulkarni’s agonising debut against a dominant Sri Lanka
It was the same match in which Sanath Jayasuriya slammed his career-best score of 340 and Sri Lanka recorded the highest Test total of 952 for six. Jayasuriya was involved in a massive partnership of 576 runs for the third wicket with Roshan Mahanama (225).
This partnership was then a record-breaking milestone in the red-ball format only for Sri Lankan veterans Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to break it through their 624-runs alliance against South Africa in 2006.
I didn’t know it was a record: Nilesh Kulkarni
Kulkarni, during the play time, wasn’t aware of the record of him being the first Indian to pick a Test wicket on the first ball of his career. The 49-year-old also shared the moment Sri Lankan legendary spinner Muttiah Muralitharan wished him the best for the game but that didn’t work in the
“Marvan (Atapattu) and Sanath (Jayasuriya) were going great guns at the start. We had to bowl around an hour or so and the focus was to get a couple of wickets.
“I was not hoping to bowl. Rajesh Chauhan was to bowl the last over but Marvan took a single in the last couple of balls of the previous over, which made Sachin (Tendulkar, the captain) change his mind and get a left-arm spinner bowling to a right-hander.
“While I was changing my fielding position, suddenly he called and asked me to bowl,” Kulkarni told Sportstar.
“I didn’t know it was a record. All of us were happy. The day was called off. We were coming back and I was giving throwdowns to a few batters.
“I was completely in a casual mood till a few press reporters came down and told me it was a world record and I was the first from India.
“That’s when it hit me that something different had happened in my life. Incidentally, after the day’s play, I met Muralitharan at the hotel and he told me: “Well done, good luck for the next three days”. Little did I realise that I was not going to get a wicket for the next three days.
Both that match and the series ended in a draw as both teams gave their best batting efforts, although, Sri Lanka dominated with the bat and the scorecard is the only evidence to explain their ascendancy in the game.