Indian cricket team has not been known for its popular fast bowlers. Barring a few, there are not many who could be called as a ‘Fast-bowling sensation’. There was, however, one such Indian ‘fast’ bowler who worked havoc on the batters around the world with his pace. He was Ramakant ‘Tiny’ Desai. Desai was nicknamed ‘Tiny’ for he was only 5ft 4ins tall. He broke the notion that a big built-up is required to scare the batsman with fierce pace. Desai, who made his debut against the West Indies in the Caribbean in 1958, troubled their batsmen with bouncers.
Imagine a short-heighted Indian fast bowler troubling the West Indian batsmen with his bouncers. Desai took 4 for 69 in his first match and was the lone Indian fast bowler who looked impressive in that match against the mighty West Indians.
His impressive tour of West Indies was followed up with the England tour. He reduced England, single-handedly, to 80 for 6 at Lord’s to mark his presence in the match. He went on to take 74 Test wickets for India in 28 Tests he played.
Desai was a king in first-class cricket. The fast-bowler took 468 wickets at a sparkling average of 24.10 in 150 games he played. This is one massive record keeping in mind the flat Indian pitches. ‘The Tiny Assasin’ as he was famously called, was more than handy with a willow in his hand. Coming in at number 10 against Pakistan in a Test match, Desai amassed 85 runs for India which included 7 fours. In doing so, he even shared a 149-run partnership with Nana Joshi for the 9th wicket. This is an Indian record for which stands till now. Ramakant Desai was a powerful administrator as well. He was the chairman of selectors when Sachin Tendulkar was made captain of the Indian team. He was also the man responsible for removing Sachin from the captaincy after he failed to bring positive results for India.
Desai, retired at an early age of 29 due to health reasons. His contemporaries believe the reason for his retirement was the work-overload. At times, he used to be the only fast-bowler in the team and bowled excessively. This took a heavy toll on his body. After his death due to heart attack in 1998, Ramakant Desai left behind an Irreplaceable position in Indian cricket that is still vacant.