Whenever there is a discussion about Sachin Tendulkar, a second name props up every time. Sachin was a part of a record 664 runs partnership that was scored while playing for his school and the boy at the other end was Vinod Kambli. To put the numbers straight, it was Vinod Kambli who scored most of those runs, 349* to be precise. Both Sachin and Vinod were touted as special talents but at that stage Vinod was believed to be better of the two.
Vinod Kambli did fulfill the promise shown as he made his international debut at a young age and did exceptionally well, to start with. Kambli proved his mettle as he scored his maiden ton in just his third test and in fact went on to make it a double hundred. He did not stop there as he scored another double hundred in the next innings that he played and went further ahead with a third consecutive century in the innings that followed. In that season, Kambli was so prolific that he went on to own the record of being the fastest Indian to score 1000 test runs (14 innings), a record that he still holds. In the process he also became the only batsmen to score consecutive centuries in 3 innings, all played against different oppositions.
A star was born, believed the fans and the experts. He did reasonably well in the limited overs cricket too and soon became the poster boy of the nation. His batting had a flair and swagger that probably came from his personality off the field. He was one of a very few cricketers that lived a flamboyant life and probably too much than was required. After the initial burst of phenomenal cricket, Kambli began being in the news for all the wrong reasons. A lot of complaints began cropping up about issues regarding his indiscipline and temperament and all started going downhill for him.
Vinod Kambli did some things right and some wrong but will be etched in the memory of Indian cricket fans for ever, especially his image with tears rolling down his eyes, after the infamous semi-final match against Sri Lanka in the 1996 world cup that was awarded to Sri Lanka due to uncontrollable and violent crowd situation. He did not play much after that though he made his comeback for brief period in 2000.
He was a star that could have lit up the entire nation with joy through his performances on the field instead he chose to burn himself down with the choices he made off it. His lifestyle came in the way of his dedication and priority towards the game that gave him all that in the first place.
Vinod Kambli will be talked about more for his colorful character rather than his cricketing exploits. He was a promise unfulfilled who could have ruled the skies but chose the troughs instead.