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Ravi Shastri scores big at coach Vithal Patil's condolence meeting

Former India captains strikes right chord while paying tribute to Vithal Patil

Ravi Shastri was sent right up the order at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday to speak about his departed coach Vithal 'Marshall' Patil at a Mumbai Cricket Association-organised condolence meeting.

Ravi Shastri speaks from the heart at Wankhede Stadium on Saturday
Ravi Shastri speaks from the heart at Wankhede Stadium on Saturday 

And one could say the opener scored a scorching hundred.

The audience was not overwhelming in numbers. Going by the huge amount of cricketers Patil coached and played with, a massive turn-out wouldn't have been exactly unexpected. But then, it was a Saturday, and not a dry one.

"I can say this from the bottom of my heart: But for him (Patil) and the confidence he had in our abilities, I wouldn't be standing here today," was how Shastri got his first runs of the evening.

His Podar College days inevitably entered the mix. "It all started very early in 1978. I came across a gentleman whom words cannot describe. When I saw the photograph (of him placing the Podar College cap on Patil's body at the Shivaji Park crematorium on Thursday) in mid-day, there was a caption on top of it – 'A thousand and one words'.

It couldn't be more apt than that. Today is also a day when we move forward. He wouldn't have liked people sobbing. He would have said, 'now get out there and kick arse; get out and play the game hard,' " said Shastri.

Shastri struck a fine chord with his college mates when recalled incidents relating to Patil and cricket at Podar. "One day, during my second year in college, he said to me, 'Ravi, you are spending a lot of time at the Dadar Parsi Gymkhana bus stop.'

I said, 'I have to go to Mahim and that 314 bus takes some time to come.' He said, 'no, you are standing there at a time when the Ruia and Podar girls finish college so that you can look and chat with them.' I said, 'nothing wrong, Sir' and then he caught one of our seniors - Srikanth Narvekar and said, 'you are the one standing with Ravi. Your job is to advice him about doing the right things.' That was Sir."

Patil's fellow swing bowler at Dadar Union Urmikant Mody, who arrived from America for the funeral, spoke about how Patil helped him bowl the outswinger. "I was a natural inswing bowler, but Marshall told me to go round the wicket to get my outswing going. I succeeded at the fourth attempt and I clearly remember him telling me that use it (outswinger) only as a surprise element," said Mody.

Former MCA secretary Pravin Barve, who was highly instrumental in developing the MIG Cricket Club in Bandra, recalled how Patil helped the suburban club raise its cricket stocks.

Vilas Godbole, who played alongside Patil at Dadar Union recalled how he apprised Patil of the late Hanumant Singh's on-side strength when Hanumant first played in Mumbai. Godbole said: "He didn't bowl a single ball on the leg-side to Hanumant, who was ultimately caught in the slips while playing against us for Fort Vijay."

Patil's friend Shailendra Pal Sharma provided an insight into what Patil hoped to see but couldn't. He felt Shishir Hattangadi should have played for India.

The recent deaths of Madhav Mantri and Patil have led to a sombre time for Mumbai cricket, but as MCA vice-president Ravi Savant told Godbole only recently, 'let's produce someone with the dedication of VS Patil'.

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