Clayton Murzello: Hello, I have some news for you

While pacer Shardul Thakur got the news of his India selection on a train, Ravi Shastri got his via a hotel watchman. More such anecdotes...

Shardul Thakur, the latest pace entrant in the Indian Test team, will always enjoy telling people how he got the news of his selection through a telephone call from the chairman of selectors Sandeep Patil while travelling from Palghar to Borivli on a train.

Thakur’s ‘breaking news’ story that was published in this newspaper on Tuesday brings to mind how other cricketers received the biggest cricketing news of their careers.

Bishan Singh Bedi, the Sardar of Spin, was merely asked to head to Calcutta in 1966 to bowl to the Indian batsmen for the second Test against the West Indies after the opening Test loss in Bombay. After doing his job, he packed his bags and was set to return to Chandigarh for his Inter-University matches before a friend called him in his room at the Great Eastern Hotel to tell him that he had heard of Bedi’s selection on the radio. And when he visited Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi’s room, the skipper was pouring his first drink for the evening. Pataudi, in a lighter vein, invited Bedi to join him with the words, “Now that you are an India player, have a drink with me.”

More stories to come: Shardul Thakur, the newest pace entrant in India’s Test team. File pic/Shadab Khan
More stories to come: Shardul Thakur, the newest pace entrant in India’s Test team. File pic/Shadab Khan

Ravi Shastri, another left-arm spinner and captain of India, was with the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team at Kanpur for their match against Uttar Pradesh in 1981. One morning, a watchman at the hotel congratulated Shastri because he heard on the radio that he has been picked to join the Indian team since regular left-arm spinner Dilip Doshi was injured. Shastri returned to his room and told his roomie Rahul Mankad that he was off to New Zealand.

Like Bedi, who felt his friend was joking when he called with the news of his selection, the great England fast bowler Fred Trueman too reckoned he was being pranked before the India vs England series in 1952. Trueman was working away at the Royal Air Force sports store when a caller asked him, “What do you think about being picked for England next Thursday?” “Oh, bollocks,” said Trueman, before slamming the phone down. The caller made one more call and he was duly abused. It was a reporter calling from the Yorkshire Post. Since Trueman didn’t believe him, the reporter asked Yorkshire legend Bill Bowes to talk to Trueman, who then did not have any doubt about the news of his selection. In his book Ball of Fire, Trueman wrote, “I went — more like floated on air — to meet Group Captain Warfield to tell him and see if he would give me the time off. He said jokingly he would agree on one condition — if he could have complimentary tickets for himself and his wife.”

In his capacity as Australia captain, Mark Taylor informed quite a few players about their inclusion in the playing XI, but himself endured an embarrassing situation with regard to his selection. In 1986-87, a section of the media thought the Australian selectors had picked Mark for the home Ashes series, but as it turned out, they had selected spinner Peter Taylor. Mark was even called by Channel Nine for an interview in their studio, which he agreed to do. As he was getting dressed, the reporter called again to ask whether there was another Taylor who played for New South Wales. The next few minutes were spent wondering whether it could be Peter, and Mark finally decided not to go to the studio. Two seasons later, in 1989, Mark did get selected for Australia. He got the news via two cricket writers at a restaurant in Melbourne where the touring New South Wales team were having dinner. In his book Time to Declare, Taylor wrote: “My first reaction was: ‘Are you sure it’s me?’ ‘It’s you,’ they said, ‘Taylor M’. Champagne was called for, glasses distributed.”

West Indian Malcolm Marshall was working in the storeroom of Banks Breweries in Barbados, enjoying the music on his radio. Suddenly, the music stopped for the news and he heard the newsreader say, “Major shocks in the West Indies touring party to India (1978-79).” He then heard his name read out. “I have never been so staggered, so utterly transfixed. Was I dreaming? Was it a mistake? Had they got the wrong man,” Marshall wondered and revealed in Marshall Arts. He could only convince himself that he was chosen for the West Indies when the great Wes Hall called up to say, “Get yourself together, you’re on your way.”

Another great Barbadian, Sir Garfield Sobers, was playing on the street with his brothers in 1954 when Ben Hoyos, the secretary of the Barbados Cricket Association, told him that he had received a cable from the West Indies Cricket Board requesting Sobers to report to Trinidad and join the West Indies team (which would then head to Jamaica for the next Test against England). The 17-year-old Sobers, who was picked for his bowling, revealed in his book later that, “It felt like walking on air to think that I was to be in the same dressing room as Weekes, Worrell and Walcott.”

New boy Thakur will soon be in the land of Sobers and the famous Ws and, doubtless, he will return with more stories, but none better than the one that took place on May 23, 2016.

mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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