The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has done well to continue felicitating past players as part of its annual awards. This year, the cricket establishment has decided to honour all-rounder Bapu Nadkarni, wicketkeeper-batsman Farokh Engineer and late all-rounder Eknath Solkar for their contribution to Indian cricket. All three played Ranji Trophy cricket for Mumbai.
Nadkarni bowled tirelessly at all levels of the game until the 1970s and did a fine job as assistant manager on India’s tour of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji in 1980-81. Karsan Ghavri, who played a part in drawing the Adelaide Test and winning the third and final Test at Melbourne during that Australian summer, remembered Nadkarni’s invaluable inputs during team meetings.
It can be recalled, India lost the first Test at Sydney, managed to draw the Adelaide Test which experienced a nail-biting finish and shocked Australia at Melbourne where the hosts were bowled out for 83. Ghavri dismissed opposition captain Greg Chappell for a duck in the second innings after getting him caught and bowled in the first, for 76. Nadkarni (80) was later chairman of selectors who picked India’s 1987 World Cup squad.
“We had no coaches accompanying the team and things were not as systematic as they are today on tours. People like Bapuji and Polly Umrigar were invaluable to have on tour,” said Ghavri.
Engineer (75) remains a larger than life figure, who entertained cricket fans the world over. He was picked in the Rest of the World team in 1971-72 when they clashed with Ian Chappell’s Australians and was a hit in county cricket for Lancashire.
Engineer was horrified to see India failing match after match on their 2011 tour of England. He told the media then that he offered his services as a consultant to the Indian cricket board and was most disappointed not to have got a role. He has been vehement in his criticism towards coach Duncan Fletcher.
Ekki, the character
The BCCI’s masterstroke comes in the form of its decision to honour the departed Eknath Solkar, a real character on and off the field. The best of his all-round skills was his close catching and he earned universal praise for his guts. Only last year, Engineer told MiD DAY: “Ekki was a real hero.
After a game, while we enjoyed our beer, poor Ekki would be in a corner with ice in his hands, rubbing his knees. He got whacked continuously (while fielding). We didn’t have physios in those days – only a man who would do some champi.” The BCCI will present a memento and a cheque of Rs 15 lakh each to Nadkarni, Engineer and a member of the Solkar family. The awards function will be held in Mumbai on January 11, 2014.