World cricket will associate Bal Thackeray with activists digging up the Wankhede Stadium pitch to protest India vs Pakistan cricket in 1991, but cricket was probably his best-loved game. Thackeray passed away in Mumbai yesterday at the age of 86.
India’s chairman of cricket selectors, Sandeep Patil revealed to SUNDAY MiD DAY that he shared a special bond with Thackeray, who he last met six months ago. “He was my father’s very good friend. When Pakistan came to India for a Test series in 1979-80 after 18 years, Balasaheb started a campaign called, ‘No Sandeep, no Test,’ ” recalled Patil, who made his debut in fifth Test of that series in Chennai.
He added: “I am very sad to hear the news of Balasaheb’s death. I used to visit him before taking up any assignment be it coaching Kenya, Oman or any other team and his one, perennial message to me was, ‘come back to Mumbai’. And I said, I will... someday.’ I last visited him six months ago and his words to me were the same – ‘come back to Mumbai.’ He supported and criticised me. He was most upset when I acted in a film.”
Patil was privileged. He never had to seek an appointment to meet Thackeray: “It’s a wrong perception that he was difficult to see. I never had to fix an appointment. I just went to Matoshree and straight into his meeting room. ‘Surya Kiran ala,’ he used to exclaim whenever I went because my name signifies the sun and light.”
Ajit Wadekar, the former India captain who emerged from the Shivaji Park stable never forgets to remember how Thackeray used to be amongst the spectators for a Dadar Union vs Shivaji Park Gymkhana match alongwith Manohar Joshi and Ram Joshi, Bombay University’s vice-chancellor.
G K Menon, who was part of the Shivaji Park Gymkhana set-up apart from being a journalist, said: “On a couple of occasions I, as secretary of SPG, requested him to have a seat in the pavilion, but he politely declined the offer, stating that he would like to watch the match from the
“Some of his close friends were 91-year-old Madhav Mantri who along with a small batch would be conversing on Platform 2 at Dadar Station before taking the Churchgate-bound slow train. Of course, Balasaheb went to Free Press Office for his cartoon work while Mantri would head to the Associated Cement Companies office.”
According to Menon, Thackeray’s favourite player was SPG skipper Madhu Patil, the father of Sandeep. Kenia Jayantilal, who was part of India’s squad which won a Test series in the West Indies and England in 1971, remembered the felicitation Thackeray organised for the team. “His speech (in Marathi) was powerful and left you spell bound. He had a tremendous command over the language,” said Jayantilal.
Really sad to hear about Balasaheb's demise. His contribution to Maharashtra was immense. It's a terrible loss and he will always be remembered and missed. Unfortunately, I am in Ahmedabad as I would have liked to pay my last respects personally. My condolences to his family. May God rest his soul in peace.
RIP to great Bala Saheb Thackerayji. You will be missed. Very sad to hear the news. Condolence to the family.