I must admit in the beginning that I am neither a lover, nor a follower of Cricket. My association with Cricket is, what Mahatma Gandhi’s association could have been with a gym or body building. When I went to Allahabad, from Deoria in 1969 for higher studies, I used to be amused at the fascination of my friends with the Test Cricket and I used to make fun of them. In those days Mr. Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi was the captain of Indian Cricket Team and was perhaps as popular as Dilip Kumar. All my friends were his fans and used to idolize him. I do admit that I was not even remotely enamoured by his charm. Little did I know that exactly 20 years later I would be sitting in his daughter-in-law’s house in Mumbai and would train his son Saif Ali Khan for films. And 15 years after training Saif, I would train his daughter Soha Ali Khan also.
My association with Cricket started with India’s World Cup win at the Lords in 1983. Suddenly I started admiring Sunil Gavaskar and that was all. My date with Cricket ended with Sunil Gavaskar’s retirement from the test Cricket.
During this brief association I tried to get as much information about the sport as was possible. Immediately after the World Cup win West Indies team toured India. During those nascent days of Door Darshan all my friends were glued to their TV sets. I closely watched all matches and I was ecstatic when Sunil Gavaskar equaled Sir Don Bradman‘s centuries and later on broke that record. During those years when I was closely following Cricket and was trying to cull all the records, I came to know about a gentleman cricketer called Raj Singh Dungarpur. He was the only Indian cricketer, apart from Sunil Gavaskar, whom I liked. He is the only cricketer, whom I have seen in person. I was invited for the wedding of Neil Nitin Mukesh’s sister at Grand Maratha. Since it was the wedding of the grand-daughter of legendary singer Mukesh, many luminaries of every walk of life were present. I went with my wife and silently stood in the queue. After a while when I looked ahead, I got a shock of my life. The person standing just ahead of me was Raj Singh Dungarpur. He was standing there silently, waiting for his turn. I was ecstatic that I could not only watch him from close quarters, but I could feel him also. I can never forget that the legendary Rajbhai, as he was fondly called, was standing so close to me that night.
On September 13, 2009, after his sad demise, News Papers are reporting in length about him. They are carrying the stories of his achievements as the able team manager and administrator of Cricket. He was the man who selected 16-year-old Sachin Tendulkar in 1989 and he selected Mohd. Azharuddin as the captain of India’s Cricket team. From 1996 to 1999, he was the President of BCCI also. As the suave and dapper connoisseurs of Cricket, he shall always be remembered by Cricket fraternity. But for a lay man and part time lover of Cricket like me, he epitomized and symbolized the game of Cricket, which used to be gentlemen’s game once.
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