New Delhi: India skipper Virat Kohli and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar led the way as the Indian cricket fraternity paid homage to veteran left-arm spinner Rajinder Goel who passed away on Sunday at the age of 77.
"We've lost a legend in Rajinder Goel Ji. Him being the highest wicket-taker in the history of Ranji Trophy speaks volumes about the career he had. Wishing all the strength to his family and loved ones," Kohli said in a tweet.
"Saddened to hear about the passing away of Rajinder Goel ji! He was a stalwart of Indian domestic cricket picking up more than 600 wickets in the Ranji Trophy. May his soul Rest in Peace and my heartfelt condolences to his near and dear ones," Tendulkar wrote on his Twitter handle with a picture of Goel.
In a career spanning 27 years, Goel -- a left-arm spinner par excellence -- picked up 750 first-class wickets with an average of 18.58. He played first-class cricket till the age of 44 and represented Patiala, Delhi, Southern Punjab and Haryana.
"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," BCCI President Sourav Ganguly said in a BCCI statement.
"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," he added.
India head coach Ravi Shastri tweeted: RIP Rajinder Goel Ji. Master of his craft. Killer line & length in our terrain. Humility personified. Condolences to the entire family."
Former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin said Goel's simplicity and humility will forever be missed. "Rajinder Goel was a legendary left-arm spinner and I was lucky enough to know such a great human being. RIP, Goel Saab. Your simplicity and humility will forever be missed."
"Rest in peace Rajinder Goel Sir. My thoughts and prayers with the family. God bless your soul," Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan tweeted.
"His Ranji Trophy records speaks for itself. 750 wickets and a staggering career over twenty years. A legend of Indian first-class cricket. RIP Rajinder Goel Ji," said India batsman K.L. Rahul in a tweet.
"Deeply saddened by the passing away of Rajinder Goel, the highest wicket-taker in the history of Ranji Trophy. My heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones," former Indian batsman Laxman said on the micro-blogging website.
"Very sad news Rajinder Goel ji is no more," Harbhajan Singh said.
The veteran spinner bagged 59 five-wicket hauls and 18 ten-wicket hauls. With 637 Ranji Trophy wickets, Goel despite playing his last game in the 1984-85 season, remains the leading wicket-taker of India's premier domestic first-class competition.
Jay Shah, Honorary Secretary of BCCI, said in a statement: "Rajinder Goel Ji was a true servant of Indian cricket. He was a role model for many current and upcoming spinners."
"His longevity should inspire upcoming cricketers to excel and improve every time they take the field. BCCI honoured him with Col. CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. I extend my condolences to his family in this hour of grief."
Arun Singh Dhumal, Honorary Treasurer, BCCI said: "Rajinder Goel Ji was a stalwart. He continued to be associated with the game even post his retirement and often turned up to watch young kids play and always extended his guidance."
"He is the highest wicket-taker in the history of Ranji Trophy. My heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones."
"Have always been staggered by the records of Shivalkar & Rajinder Goel. Here's Goel's FC record for you - 157 matches, 750 wickets! 59 five-wicket hauls & 18 times 10 wkts in a match. Avg -18.58. That's bradmanesque in bowling - 5 wkts every 2.6 matches. RIP Goel Sir," tweeted cricketer-turned-commentator Sanjay Manjrekar.
Goel never played for India officially but appeared against Ceylon in an unofficial Test at Ahmedabad in 1964-65 where he took four wickets in the second innings. He never got a look in because of Bishan Singh Bedi who bowled in a similar style.
There was a time when Bedi was axed from the Indian team for the Bangalore (now Bengaluru) Test against the West Indies in 1974-75. Goel got a look in but as fate would have it, he was excluded at the last moment.
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