Indian cricket charcha at its finest

Two highly stimulating cricket events — the ‘Dilip Sardesai Memorial Lecture’ and ‘Remembering Frank Tyson’ were held in Mumbai recently drove home the importance of pure cricket charcha.

Sitting in the audience of the Cricket Club of India’s CK Nayudu Hall, one realised that there is so much to a cricketer that we journalists don’t see and appreciate while covering them or following their forays through the print and electronic media.

Anil Kumble, who delivered the seventh Dilip Sardesai  Memorial Lecture at the Cricket Club of India last Saturday, was brilliant  in substance and delivery. Pic/Atul Kamble
Anil Kumble, who delivered the seventh Dilip Sardesai  Memorial Lecture at the Cricket Club of India last Saturday, was brilliant  in substance and delivery. Pic/Atul Kamble

Anil Kumble, who delivered the seventh Sardesai Lecture last Saturday, was brilliant — in substance and delivery.

He started off by going back to 2003 when Dilip Sardesai was on a flight with him returning from Johannesburg after the World Cup final defeat to Australia. Sardesai insisted that Kumble was not in the playing XI for the final against Australia for reasons beyond cricket. Kumble was quick to dispel that theory but Sardesai insisted. “He (Sardesai) became so upset at what he saw as an injustice that for the sake of peace, I finally agreed with his theory. I was touched at his concern. I have great respect for former players, who feel strongly for current ones,” said Kumble. Now that’s a fine example of showing respect to a former player despite him not having played a part in your cricketing growth.

Unlike Sardesai, Bishan Singh Bedi had a role to play as cricket manager when Kumble was first picked for India. Bedi was the one to console as well as harden him when he wept after being at the receiving end of a tongue lashing from Kapil Dev following a fumble in the field on his Test debut at Manchester in 1990. Eighteen years later, Kumble was captaining India on a fractious tour of Australia where the Monkeygate controversy broke out.

And in the midst of it, when the future of the tour was in jeopardy, Bedi sends the captain a message, the same Bedi, who declared India’s first innings at 306 for six against the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica 1975-76 in protest against the hosts’ intimidatory bowling. Kumble revealed Bedi’s message to him: “As a captain, take a decision you will be proud of when you look back on history.” Kumble went on to recommend that this motto should be pasted on the kit bags of all international captains.

Thanks to Kumble, we now also know more about what Bedi did for his teammates. He quoted his former India coach Madan Lal who said, “He (Bedi) was not just the captain; he was a total guide to us, telling us how to eat, what to read and how to carry ourselves.” Such things are never forgotten.

Two days after the Sardesai Lecture, there was a function organised by cricket enthusiast Sachin Bajaj to celebrate the life and times of Frank Tyson, who passed away on September 27. It was an apt way to honour the former coach who changed not only the fast bowling landscape of Mumbai cricket in the 1990s, but also shaped the careers of a flock of bowlers, who served Mumbai for more than a decade.

Reverence came into the mix again when Abey Kuruvilla, the most successful of Tyson’s wards, also mentioned the names of Balvinder Singh Sandhu and Kenia Jayantilal at the BCA-Mafatlal Bowling Scheme before Tyson arrived in 1991. Sandhu was not in the audience, but Jayantilal was, and it made his day.

Later in the evening, Jeff Thomson was called upon to remember Tyson. Thomson is here to perform a similar role with young Mumbai fast bowlers, which Tyson did in the early 1990s. Thomson was profound on Monday when he said to the young cricketers: “All that the coach is trying to do is to make you somebody. They are not trying to be heroes. They are trying to make you the heroes. It’s an honour for me to be here following Frank (in the bowling scheme). I can care less of what Jeff Thomson did in his career but if I can make kids play for their country, or make it to the Ranji Trophy or just do better, it will be fantastic.”

Bajaj announced an annual Frank Tyson Memorial Lecture, the first one to be held on Tyson’s June 6 birth anniversary. That and the initiation of the Frank Tyson scholarship funded by the IDBI Federal Life Insurance capped a fine evening.

There’s not going to be any shortage of pure cricket charcha next year as well and it’s going to be interesting to see if the annual Sardesai Lecture will continue to have a former India Test captain. The likes of Gavaskar, Bedi, Dravid and Kumble have made it a hard act to follow. “Tendulkar or Dhoni could be next,” someone said. You never say never in cricket, but Dhoni is not in good form with the microphone after his, “we-shouldn’t-be-taking-such-things-seriously” comment about the bottle-throwing incident at Cuttack.

Clayton Murzello is mid-day’s Group Sports Editor

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