November 15, 1989, National Stadium, Karachi. Test match number 1127. India vs Pakistan. No one can forget the date and the match. It was Sachin Tendulkar’s debut. But there was another talent who geared up for the Test… Salil Ankola, who later went on to become an actor after a brief cricketing stint.
The once-star cricketer who quit due to an injury shot to fame through movies and television shows, and then gathered infamy due to alcoholism. Now, seen as Surya Dev in ‘Karamphaldata Shani’, Salil Ankola made his Test debut during the first Test of the tour at Karachi, alongside Sachin Tendulkar and Waqar Younis, both would go on to become successful cricketers in their respective careers. In a drawn match, Salil took two wickets for 128 runs. However, injuries sustained thereafter and prevented him from appearing in the remaining Tests of the series.
Soon after the Test series, Salil made his ODI debut in the second of the three-match series. He arrived at number 10 in the second innings at a stage where India needed 15 runs of one over. Ankola hit a six of the first ball that he faced off Imran Khan but eventually ended on the losing side. In the next match, he bowled just 2.3 overs (15 balls) before the match was called off due to crowd disruption. Despite being selected in the Test squads on domestic series and overseas tours, he never got an opportunity to play for the team. Being dropped from the team without getting a game was known in cricket circles as being “Ankolad”. But he continued to play ODI cricket.
In 1996, he was selected in Team India for the World Cup. In the tournament, Salil played on one match against Sri Lanka which eventually India lost. Shortly after the World Cup, with immediate effect, selectors dropped him along with Vinod Kambli and all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar for the Singer Cup and Sharjah Cup. However, he was subsequently selected for the Team India that toured South Africa in 1996-97. But despite being the squad, he was never given a chance to represent the playing XI in any of the Test matches. Following the series, he was picked up for the ODI tournament, he played five games in the tournament against South Africa and Zimbabwe.
In the finals against South Africa that India lost, Ankola bowled 7 overs and conceded 50 runs. The spell included a catch being taken off a no ball and a dropped chance. The tour became his last international cricket tour as he was never selected for the team again. In the same year, Ankola announced his retirement from international cricket. At age 28, Ankola retired due to a sudden development of bone tumor in his left shin bone (osteoid osteoma) because of which he could not run for 2 years.
Salil then went on to pursue a successful career in acting. Interestingly, Pakistan’s Shahid Saeed too debuted in the same match with Sachin, Salil and Waqar Younis and too could not find a place in the Test team after this match, but went on to play ten ODIs for Pakistan.