Like his frame, Hemant Waingankar’s deeds were tall. So tall that there isn’t a Mumbai player who he didn’t help in some way through his kind words and actions.
Waingankar (62) served Mumbai cricket till good health permitted. Four weeks ago, he was feared dead but multiple complications notwithstanding he survived.
Had he been fit, he would have contested the forthcoming elections of the Mumbai Cricket Association which he served as Joint Honorary Secretary. And needless to say, he would have won by a handsome margin.
Poor health over the last few years forced him to be in an impossible run chase-like situation. At times, there would be traces of revival, then a drop. Death was inevitable, but he fought on.
Waingankar was a friend to many a cricketer, more so to Sunil Gavaskar, who played in the same Bombay University side during the late 1960s. Gavaskar was in Delhi on commentary duty for the Champions League T20 final. “He was family, my younger brother.
I thought long and hard if I should return to Mumbai, but he would have wanted me to be at cricket. He loved cricket and cricketers and would go out of his way to help them, especially youngsters. It is a huge loss for Mumbai and Indian cricket,” Gavaskar told MiD DAY.
Waingankar’s contribution to Sachin Tendulkar’s career was significant. Waingankar organised for Sun-Grace Mafatlal to sponsor Tendulkar and his mate Vinod Kambli whose education and cricket-related expenses were borne by the firm. Waingankar helped in the formation of the Sun-Grace Mafatlal cricket team after the Nirlon outfit got disbanded.
“He (Waingankar) was more like my elder brother. Right from my junior cricket days he helped me and whenever I was going through a tough phase he was the first one to call me.
He always had encouraging words for me. It is a personal loss for me. I will miss him,” Tendulkar told MiD DAY on hearing the news of Waingankar’s death.
Kambli said, “I have lost my Godfather. It was he who started everything for Sachin and me; gave us that boost with the Sun-Grace sponsorship because of which we could only concentrate on our cricket.”
At the Shivaji Park crematorium yesterday, former Test player Praveen Amre remembered the complete support he received from Waingankar as MCA secretary when Amre was Mumbai’s coach.
Dilip Vengsarkar recalled his college days. “Hemant played for Siddharth College, a team we (Podar) met in two inter-collegiate finals. Hemant was helpful in my days at Dadar Union as well and I can never forget his contribution as MCA secretary when I was vice-president.”
Waingankar managed some star-studded outfits — the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team, Nirlon and Sun-Grace Mafatlal. He was popular within the opposition camp as well and both Indian and foreign teams will recall his work in the dressing room during Test matches at Wankhede Stadium in the 1980s.
This writer remembers Waingankar with his arm around Viv Richards, walking towards the team bus after the India vs West Indies Nehru Cup semi-final at the Wankhede in 1989.
This newspaper can never forget his effort and encouragement when it sponsored the Dr H D Kanga Cricket League (2003, 2004 and 2005). As much as he was determined to conduct the tournament smoothly, he always wanted to ensure MiD DAY got the connect it needed with the city's cricket-loving public.
Hemant Waingankar made cricket a worthwhile pursuit for a lot of people. He was the perfect PR man in some ways, but there was nothing artificial in the way he did things. We will never see the ever-smiling man, often in a safari suit again. Indeed, Mumbai cricket is poorer.
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