Radio cricket commentary has lost a heavyweight through the passing of Suresh Saraiya (76). He served All India Radio with distinction.
Saraiya’s commentary skills took him places — England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and West Indies apart from all major cricket centres in India.
Celebrated commentator Harsha Bhogle, whose career Saraiya was glad to see blossom, was quick to say on Twitter: “I worked with so many commentators - few with his desire and preparation.”
Saraiya took great pride in the fact that he did commentary during Wankhede Stadium’s inaugural Test in 1974-75 and the first one after renovation — last year’s India vs West Indies game.
On several occasions in the 1960s and early 1970s, Saraiya shared the commentary box with the late Vijay Merchant.
“Two great men have left us on the same day,” exclaimed former Test bowler Karsan Ghavri, a Gujarati like Saraiya, still reeling with the news of Bollywood star Rajesh Khanna’s death.
Saraiya performed a small role in the Dev Anand-directed film Awwal Number as a commentator.
Sunil Gavaskar will remember Saraiya for bringing along an album to the West Indies (in 1976) that had photographs of his newly born son, Rohan.
Saraiya played cricket for Wilson College and used to open the batting with Dilip Sardesai.
Cricket commentary was his passion, but he also served Central Bank of India with dedication. A perfect PR man, Saraiya’s expertise landed him a consultancy role with an advertising agency after his retirement.
His innings was a rewarding one and he always believed in taking the rough with the smooth.
He always ensured he was dressed smartly and had a huge collection of neck ties.
Former BCCI president Raj Singh Dungarpur was a friend and sat in the same commentary box as Saraiya on the 1980-81 tour to Australia.
Once, when he saw Saraiya managing to chat with Sir Don Bradman in Adelaide, he requested his fellow commentator to introduce him to the then living legend.
Ten Julys ago, Saraiya and I shared a room on the 2002 tour to England. There was no shortage of anecdotes with him around. He very rarely got ruffled, but there was one occasion when I thought he would get a stroke while trying to reach Old Trafford in time for the England vs Sri Lanka match on July 7. Travelling from Birmingham, we reached barely half an hour before the start of the match.
A heart attack took away his life on July 18.
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