On my way back home from my Sunday morning tennis session at Chembur Gymkhana, I got a call from Vishal ‘Bunty’ Mahadik, informing that fellow fast bowler Rajesh Sawant (45) had passed away. To say the news came as a shock would be an understatement.
Rajesh was a lively person with a good sense of humour. He was also a hardworker with an ambition to make it big in the world of fitness training. Rajesh was a trainee in my first batch of bowlers in the Bombay Cricket Association-Mafatlal Bowling Scheme during the early 1990s. From Day One of the training session, his athleticism and decent bowling action impressed me. I asked him to handle the warm-ups and cool-downs, which he did to the best of his ability. Rajesh was determined to improve his bowling skills and was aware of the fact that cricket was a vehicle to earn a decent living.
He was so keen to improve his game that he would bowl long spells and often had to be told to take a break which he did reluctantly.
Those pals of his left-arm spinner Nilesh Kulkarni, who played for India and leg-spinner Mandar Sane, who played for Maharashtra in the Ranji Trophy, were his companions. Mandar and Rajesh were often seen disagreeing with each other during sessions.
But despite their differences, Mandar would give Rajesh a glass of milk and would wait for him to catch a train back home. They would tease Rajesh that drinking an extra glass of milk will not make him fair and Rajesh would be quick to give it back.
When I became coach of the Mumbai Ranji team, Nilesh, Rajesh and Rajesh Sutar would come to my residence and we would then travel for practice at Wankhede Stadium. There would be constant banter throughout the journey and Rajesh, most of the time, would gain the upper hand.
Unfortunately, Rajesh could not make it to the Mumbai Ranji team, but his passion and desire to be involved in the game made him a fitness trainer. A few years ago, I was made a bowling consultant at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore. By then, Rajesh was an established fitness trainer with a reputation of being a taskmaster.
Rajesh would hardly listen to other coaches, even with whom he had a great rapport with. But when I used to suggest a few changes in the weekly schedule, he would welcome it readily. During the camp, he would come for breakfast and would run to the ground as soon as his alarm rang, to set things up before the players arrived.
He used to look for any opportunity to provide financial stability to his family and wanted to give his daughter the best. She was the only one who could twist his arm and get away with it.
Always in a hurry
He was always in a hurry and determined not to be left behind in the rat race. This often got him worked up and at times, he used to end up losing his temper.
I had to calm him down by telling him of my life experiences and stressing that whatever has to come your way, will come no matter what and no one can take away what is due to us accept God.
I would tell him to enjoy his work and financial rewards would follow. But Rajesh was in a hurry, like most of us, to succeed financially, forgetting to enjoy life’s journey. I believe financial rewards follow creativity, good work and not vice versa.
Rajesh’s demise is a lesson to all us who are looking for quick financial rewards and have little patience to let things unfold on their own.
I will always remember Rajesh with affection and will cherish the time spent with him. He will be with me forever, but I am still reeling.