Clayton Murzello: The 'cutting' edge of cricket

Oct 26, 2017, 06:12 IST | Clayton Murzello

News clippings have always been close to cricketers' hearts, but a few like the late India wicketkeeper Budhi Kunderan lost them forever

Dilip Vengsarkar's turned-back clock chimed a delightful tune the other day at the Bombay Gymkhana, where the Sports Journalists' Association of Mumbai (SJAM) hosted their annual awards.

While hailing the efforts of sports writers who have spent years covering sport at the grassroots level, Vengsarkar remembered his school cricket days. "Whenever I used to get runs, Girish Dixit, the photographer, used to shoot my picture and the following day I used to head down to the newspaper stall at 5 am to check which newspapers carried my photograph. It was great motivation to do well," said Vengsarkar, urging journalists to spend their time covering school cricket.

Former India wicketkeeper-batsman Budhi Kunderan poses with an album of press clippings and photographs on a visit to Mumbai in 1997. Pic/MID-DAY ARCHIVES
Former India wicketkeeper-batsman Budhi Kunderan poses with an album of press clippings and photographs on a visit to Mumbai in 1997. Pic/MID-DAY ARCHIVES

Sunil Gavaskar's first newspaper mention was as G Sunil for his unbeaten 30 at No. 10 for St Xavier's school on the Harris Shield debut in the 1960s.

Mumbai sport was well served by local reporters like Albert D'Souza and later on Vinod Vasudeo, who covered a large amount of inter-school and club cricket. The more well-known ones like GK Menon and the late Sharad Kotnis used to treat school matches as seriously as Test matches. A Giles or Harris Shield final used to get a large spread in whichever publication's sports section Kotnis spearheaded. His contribution to Mumbai cricket is immeasurable.

Menon, 90, covered, as well as played, a beneficial role in the development of the likes of Ramakant Desai and Vijay Manjrekar and he always kept the Shivaji Park Gymkhana flying high.

Sanjay Manjrekar, another Mumbai batting hero, loves telling his friends how his late mother used to be thrilled to see his name in the Brief Scores section whenever he got a 30-plus for whichever local team he represented. His album was updated by his mother and sister Anjali.

Sachin Tendulkar too was mindful of the fact that a score of 30 and above earned you, in Mumbai cricket parlance, a "cutting". For a while, his brother Ajit maintained a file of Sachin's clippings.

I remember visiting the late Budhi Kunderan when the former India wicketkeeper-batsman was down from Scotland in 1997 and he posed for a photograph with his album of clippings maintained by his mother. When I met him the next time he didn't have it because a magazine that was launched in 2000 borrowed it for a feature on him and misplaced it.

Probably more than Budhi, his younger brother Bharat was furious at the loss as it contained a clipping of Budhi scoring a double century for his school Bharda and the newspaper called it a Bradman-like effort. Bharat was inspired by that clipping and ended up becoming a wicketkeeper and an aggressive batsman himself, who represented India on the 1968-69 schoolboys tour to Australia.

Former Mumbai off-spinner Avadhoot Zarapkar is another cricketer who was left without his album of clippings. When the star-studded Nirlon cricket team was disbanded in 1987, Zarapkar applied to Bharat Petroleum and was asked to submit original copies of his clippings. He did so reluctantly and his worst fears came true when the secretary to the recruitment officer informed him that his priceless album couldn't be found. Zarapkar didn't get picked by Bharat Petroleum. Neither did he get back his album which reflected his performances for Bombay University, Dadar Union and the Indian Universities team which played against Clive Lloyd's West Indies team of 1974-75.

Sportspersons don't forget journalists who report on their formative years. Gavaskar graciously remembered the media as well when he received the Colonel CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award from the BCCI in 2012. He thanked the media for, "highlighting my scores and bringing it to the attention of the selectors and the public."

Scrapbooks also provide great fodder for research. And Anandji Dossa, the late doyen of cricket statisticians, gave the Cricket Club of India a great gift by donating his full collection of clippings, each year covered in brown paper and hand-stitched. His press clippings journey didn't start with school cricket, but India's 1932 tour of England.

As a teenager he visited Himachal Pradesh for a family holiday. As he was savouring his newspaper-packed snack one evening, he noticed a report of a match from that tour. He went on to chronicle Indian cricket from that year to 2000. Probably, these newspaper clippings helped Dossa once correct Wisden, the bible of cricket, when it came to the number of first-class centuries scored by KS Duleepsinhji. Wisden's one-time count was 50, but Dossa insisted it was 49. And he was right!

Dossa, who often wrote congratulatory letters, was as encouraging to young cricketers as the local reporters who Vengsarkar doffed his hat to on Monday.

Sometimes, we have to remind ourselves that we are so very fortunate and privileged.

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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