Clayton Murzello: Cricketers who were in good books
Last Thursday, schoolboy cricketer Pranav Dhanawade was on the front pages of every newspaper in India for his record-breaking feat of 1009 runs
A few days after his 1009, Pranav was to play a club match, an event that would attract massive media attention. And while a sense of expectancy filled the air, news trickled in on Saturday that Pranav would not play the game. His upcoming prelims were cited as a reason; ill health too. For the time being, the 15-year-old managed to escape from a heavy cloud of expectations. Come to think of it, a good or poor show in that club match would never have had a soothing affect on him with his SSC examinations close at hand.
Nothing gets more basic than matriculation and Pranav’s guardians at home and on the cricket field did well to keep him away from that game.
Pranav Dhanawade, a 15-year-old high school student who broke a cricketing record after amassing an unbeaten 1009 in a Bhandari Cup inter-school match at Kalyan on January 6. File pic
While Indian cricket is replete with stories about heroics, education was always given its due importance. Let’s go back to the Gavaskar era. The batting icon’s childhood friend Milind Rege recalled how they were both made to appear for their prelims just before their final degree examinations at St Xavier’s College in the late 1960s. “After 45 days of non-stop cricket for the Rohinton Baria inter-university competition, we were given three days to prepare for subjects like Economics, Statistics, History and English. Sunil and I spent three days and three nights with our books and on the fourth day, we were made to give our exams on a long meeting table in a hall with Sunil and I at either end and Fr Emil D’Cruz supervising us. Fr D’Cruz did not tell us how many marks we got, but the message was sent out: ‘You can’t go scot-free. You have got to study.’ And this helped us,” said Rege, who also recalled how Gavaskar’s mother refused to let them go on an India schoolboys cricket tour because their examinations were around the corner.
A few years ago, Ravi Shastri’s mother told me how firm she was when it came to the all-rounder getting his degree, never mind the fact that he was an India player. Shastri was summoned to New Zealand in 1981, when regular left-arm spinner Dilip Doshi was injured and while he was on tour, playing for the country, she submitted her son’s forms for him to appear for the BCom examinations on his return.
Sanjay Manjrekar is eternally grateful to Lalita Paranjape, the wife of Vasu, a mentor to several Mumbai cricketers, for arranging tuitions while Manjrekar’s focus was fully on cricket during his college years. He remembered the ‘Sanjay-I-have-lined-up-three-tuitions-for-you’ telephonic conversation as if it was yesterday. She got the best professors to ‘coach’ cricket-busy Manjrekar, who admitted, “Had Mrs Paranjape not taken complete control, I don’t know how successful I would have been in achieving that educational qualification (BCom), so full credit to her.”
In 1976, Dilip Vengsarkar appeared for his final year BCom examinations and left for Delhi that evening to play the next day for Bombay against the Rest of India in the Irani Trophy. With no proper practice, he scored 90 as Gavaskar’s opening partner and stayed unbeaten on 13 in the second innings to help Bombay win by 10 wickets. Mission accomplished on both the education and cricket front!
Dilip Sardesai, who graduated from Wilson College in Mumbai, was coerced, according to his wife Nandini, into doing his MA at Siddharth College by the institution’s cricketing torchbearer VB Prabhudesai, so that he could play for Siddharth. Nandini, a professor, also recalled cricketers over the years coming to her for academic guidance.
Chandrakant Patankar played just one Test for India in 1955-56 but he is one of the few cricketers with a doctorate. In 1985, Patankar, did his PhD at the age of 55 in Materials Management, something he was most interested in while working for Laxmi Vishnu Mills. Nearly 30 years after completing his MSc, Patankar had no problems spending hours with books again. Although his tenure in the textile industry ended a few years after his Phd, he has no regrets for doing it. Patankar's accomplishment pleased his father no end. He was the one who led him to the road of his doctorate and he lived for 100 years. Talking about fathers, former off-spinning great Erapalli Prasanna's father was very keen that his son completes his engineering. According to the tweaker in his book One More Over, Prasanna Sr was reluctant to send his son for the 1961-62 tour of the West Indies because he would lose a year in his engineering course. Prasanna went and 20 days after he returned from the Caribbean, his father passed away. He wrote: “My father's death was a great shock to me; and I decided then and there, that my studies would come first and cricket afterwards. I had to complete my course.”
Prasanna dedicated his 1977 autobiography (published by Rupa & Co) with the words: “Dedicated to MY FATHER who gave first priority to education and helped me to become both an Engineer and a Test Cricketer.”
mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org