Birthday special: Lalchand Rajput – The man behind India’s 2007 T20 WC triumph

In the mid-1980s, when Sunil Gavaskar expressed his desire to bat down the order, India were in search of a worthy opener to fill Gavaskar’s boots. Lalchand Rajput, who had a stellar record and had played some outstanding knocks in domestic cricket by then, was drafted into the team for the Sri Lankan tour in 1985. Rajput, born on 18th December 1961, batted well on his Test debut scoring 32 and 61, adding 76 runs for the third wicket with Dilip Vengsarkar in the second innings.

However, a tragic ending awaited. Though the initial impression of Rajput was that of a man with resolve, the scores of 0 and 12 in the second Test spiralled him down quickly and in the next Test match, he was replaced by Ravi Shastri. Thereafter, he never made his way back into the Test team. His ODI stint was even more forgettable. He could only muster 9 runs from 4 ODIs, getting out on a duck twice in 4 innings.

Post-playing days

After his playing days, he served as the joint honorary secretary of the Mumbai Cricket Association and also took up coaching, which included successful stints with the Under-19 team. He was appointed cricket manager before India’s successful campaign at the ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa and held the position till the tour of Australia in 2007-08. He played a pivotal role in India’s triumph and continued as the manager till the Australian tour in 2007-08.

He then took over as the coach of the Mumbai Indians in the inaugural IPL in 2008. However, Rajput hogged the headlines for the wrong reasons early in the tournament when he was fined 50% of his match fee for not restricting the captain Harbhajan Singh during his infamous quarrel with S Sreesanth. After having coached Mumbai Indians and serving as the director of India’s National Cricket Academy, he also coached Afghanistan, after replacing Pakistan’s Inzamam ul Haq. During Rajput’s tenure, Afghanistan defeated West Indies in a one-day international at Gros Islet and was promoted to Full Membership of the International Cricket Council.

In May 2018, Rajput, who turns 61 today, was named as the interim head coach of the Zimbabwe national cricket team. The announcement of Rajput’s appointment came less than three weeks after the position was advertised as the entire technical staff, including their coach Heath Streak, was sacked following Zimbabwe’s failure to qualify for the 2019 World Cup. After taking the role on an initial three-month contract, in August 2018, he was appointed to the role on a permanent basis.