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Chal meri Luna!

Updated on: 11 April,2024 06:52 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Clayton Murzello |

Farokh Engineer and BS Chandrasekhar’s 1972-73 mopeds going viral last week provided good reason to elaborate on that unique end-of-series prize as well other rewards cricketers received in the 1970s, 1980s

Chal meri Luna!

Two pages from separate Sportsweek magazine issues promoting the moped reward for the top run-maker and wicket-taker in the 1972-73 India v MCC series

Clayton MurzelloNostalgia spreads far and wide in this world of WhatsApp and social media.

A 1973 advertisement in Sportsweeek magazine announcing BS Chandrasekhar (35 wickets) and Farokh Engineer (415 runs) as winners of Luna mopeds for being top performers in India’s victorious 1972-73 home series against the MCC (England toured under the name Marylebone Cricket Club till 1976-77) went viral last week.

It landed up in Engineer’s phone too while he was preparing to make a trip to Guwahati for a function organised by the Assam Cricket Association academy.

Engineer expressed his delight at the page from the past going viral. “Even Chandra sent me [this] alongwith thousands of others,” he told me.

Engineer is never short of a back story to an event. In this case, a post-event story. He said, “The presentation took place at CCI [Brabourne Stadium] immediately after the India v England series [1972-73] where myself and Chandra were presented a Luna bike each as the highest run-scorer and highest wicket-taker in the series. I had to catch a flight to UK in a few hours so I asked the first fan who came for my autograph whether he would like to have my bike as a gift from me since he told me he had specially come by train mainly to see me play. There was so much happiness in his heart and on his face which made it all the more worthwhile for me to give him the bike. When I was next in Mumbai, he contacted me to offer me money for the same as he said the bike had got him a lot of good luck combined with a job. The bike had changed his whole life for the better. I naturally told him I never ever wanted any money from him and just wished him continued good luck and success. It was indeed very touching to see him almost in tears as he thanked me again.”

Like Engineer and Chandrasekhar, former Test star Sandeep Patil was announced as the winner of a Luna moped for his victory in a single wicket tournament in Vapi. “The organisers said they would deliver it. I am still waiting for it,” Patil told me.

The following year, he was declared man of the match in a benefit game at Kolhapur. The award was an Atlas cycle. “I cycled around the stadium and the organisers said they will send it to me in a tempo; no sign of tempo or the cycle,” Patil revealed.

Alan Knott, England’s first choice wicketkeeper for a good part of the 1970s, claimed the man-of-the-match award after the tourists’ game against Central Zone at Jaipur in December 1976 for his whirlwind unbeaten 108 in MCC’s second innings. Knott was given an OCM suit length after the game, the honours being done by Khalid A-H Ansari, whose magazine Sportsweek can be credited for organising such rewards for cricketers.

Gifts and rewards for cricketers were not restricted to post-match ceremonies. In Sunny Days, Sunil Gavaskar came up with one of the most well-told anecdotes concerning the 1971 tour of the West Indies, where Dilip Sardesai pranked Salim Durrani into believing that someone was going to present him with a tape recorder.

It was a time when there were niceties aplenty with not too much aimed at publicity. I still get great pleasure in seeing pictures of the 1972-73 and 1976-77 MCC teams as well as Glenn Turner’s 1976-77 New Zealand team at Happy Home department store near my previous home at Worli, where they were given gifts. A large photograph of the 1972-73 English team adorned a wall at the entrance of this store.

The 1974 Indian team that travelled to England were given HMT watches following which, the watch company put out an advertisement that said, ‘India’s star cricketers are proud possessors of India’s star watch.’

And the Indian women’s team were given shoes by Gola for their 1976-77 tour of New Zealand.

Reading about awards like mopeds and cycles takes us back to a time when cricketers did not earn big bucks. The cash presented as player-of-the-match awards appear modest at best.

English spinner Derek Underwood, who was declared man of the match for MCC’s 200-run victory in the third Test at Chennai, where Tony Greig’s 1976-77 team took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series, got R1,500. BS Chandrasekhar got similarly rewarded in the next Test at Bangalore for his nine wickets in India’s 140-run win. 

Four years prior, the master spinner and Eknath Solkar were given R1,001 each by Punjab National Bank for their fine performances in the Delhi Test against the MCC.

In the 1978-79 home series against the West Indies, Kapil Dev was given R5,000 by Punjab National Bank for his performance in the Delhi Test, where he scored his maiden Test century. By the 1980s, cash rewards for player of the match increased. 

The West Indian tourists of 1983-84 received several awards for their sparking performances. However, interestingly, Michael Holding was richer by R10,000 as man of the match at the Ahmedabad Test while Vivian Richards received R5,000 for his century effort in the drawn Test at Mumbai.

Was it because Richards’ ton did not eventuate in a West Indies victory?

PS: Richards is reported to have walked off after receiving the trophy from Mumbai Cricket Association president SK Wankhede only to be reminded by his manager Wes Hall that there was a cash award too. Makarand Waingankar, who reported on the incident for The Sportstar magazine, wrote that Richards, “threw the packet to Holding. That was the end of the function.”

mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello

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