Just when Sourav Ganguly thought he had tackled the last question before the final Test of the epic 2001 series against Australia in Chennai, he sensed that a veteran journalist wanted to ask a question. It was Dicky Rutnagur, who at 70, was probably covering his last Test match for an England-based newspaper.
“Sorry Dicky, go ahead,” Ganguly said and waited for him to ask his question. It showed how much respect Rutnagur had gained over the years.
Rutnagur (82) passed away in a London hospital yesterday. For years on, he toiled away at his typewriter/laptop, filing reports for publications all over the world. His expertise was not restricted to the willow game. Squash as well, and table tennis, a sport he even officiated at the international level.
Several India vs West Indies series were covered by Rutnagur in the Caribbean including the 1961-62 one where Nari Contractor’s skull was fractured by a Charlie Griffith delivery.
Contractor spoke of his fellow Parsi in glowing terms yesterday: “I knew Dicky since my college days at St Xavier’s. He was a good cricket writer and could judge a match situation well. When he discussed something with you, it was done thoroughly. His reports were to the point and yes, the players trusted him. If you told Dicky something confidential, it would stay confidential.” Senior journalist G K Menon remembered him starting off at a newspaper called Bharat which, according to Menon, had the best sports writers in a team which included the Hendricks brothers - Ron and Cecil and Ron Pedro.
Salim Durani, who was part of the Indian team on the 1961-62 and 1970-71 tour of the West Indies, called Rutnagur, “a noble, good-hearted man and a fine journalist.”
He last visited India in 2010 and was at his wittiest best in the company of Contractor, Madhav Apte and Bapu Nadkarni during a lunch party in South Mumbai.
Anandji Dossa, the famous statistician, who is still going strong at 97, worked with Rutnagur to produce The Indian Cricket-Field Annual for eight years. “Dicky was very systematic in everything he did. He edited the annual superbly for eight years before he left for England,” said Dossa, quickly adding, “don’t forget, he was a very good commentator as well.”
Sachin Bajaj, a cricket enthusiast wanted to publish the best of Rutnagur’s works. Logistic problems thwarted his dream, but it’s never too late even in the Breaking News days. Genial Rutnagur had seen the best and worst of Indian cricket in a bygone era. His dispatches must be more visible.
Words of Wisden...
Page 908 of the 1977 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack has these words at the start of India in the West Indies 1976 chapter: “As at the end of the tour, the Indian team trudged along the tarmac towards their home-bound aeroplane at Kingston’s Norman Manley Airport, they resembled Napoleon’s troops on the retreat from Moscow. They were battle-weary and a lot of them were enveloped in plasters and bandages.
“The bandages were the campaign ribbons of a controversial and somewhat violent final Test which the West Indies won to prevail 2-1 in a four-Test series.”
Rutnagur was a prankster par excellence. Widely travelled sports journalist Khalid A-H Ansari remembered, in a book of cricket anecdotes, how Rutnagur, on four successive nights in Melbourne, ordered a non-vegetarian breakfast fare to be delivered to strictly vegetarian Hindi commentator Jasdev Singh’s hotel room on the 1980-81 tour of Australia.
Ill health meant Rutnagur was batting on a wretched wicket over the last few years. His fighting innings has ended; his rest well-earned.
. The Uthamna ceremony for Dicky Rutnagur will be held at 3.45 pm today (Saturday) at the residence of his sister, Mrs Arnavaz Dubash. Address: Sorrento, 8th floor, Mt Pleasant Road. Malabar Hill.