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Revisiting a special bond

Updated on: 06 June,2024 06:58 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Clayton Murzello |

Last week’s function at Wankhede, where 18 sports journalists were honoured, reminded one of the time when media, sportspersons, administrators coexisted without today’s complexities and mistrust

Revisiting a special bond

Felicitated journalists Jemi Bardoliwala (extreme left, standing), Fredun De Vitre, Ayaz Memon, Dwarkanath Sanzgiri, Suhas Joshi, Vinayak Dalvi, Satish Mishra, Mukesh Parpiani, Anthony Azavedo, Raymond Fernandes, SS Ramaswamy, Sharad Kadrekar. Sitting: Guests of honour Edward Sequeira and Dilip Vengsarkar, PM Shirodkar (in a wheelchair). Pic/Ashish Raje

Clayton MurzelloIt seemed like the old times for the city’s sports journalists at Wankhede Stadium’s PD Hall, where 18 former journalists were felicitated by the Sports Journalists’ Association of Mumbai (SJAM) last week. Respect for each other, memories, cheering and leg-pulling were all in abundant supply that May 29 evening.

The PD Hall was unmissable for cricketers of another era, because they were housed in the accommodation facility for domestic games above the hall. The venue was named after one of the most enthusiastic of Mumbai Cricket Association administrators, VB Prabhudesai—who went as Assistant Manager of the Indian team to England in 1986. Dilip Vengsarkar, who played a key role in that rare series win (2-0) in England, with two centuries in three Tests, was the guest of honour at the function, along with 1972 Munich Olympics runner Edward Sequeira.

While Sequeira spoke about his exploits on the track and the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes in Munich, Vengsarkar turned back the clock to his childhood. The former India captain recalled photographer Girish Dikshit taking young performers like him to his newspaper office and getting them photographed for the next day’s newspaper. And whenever he performed in the Giles Shield to merit a mention in the newspapers, he would go down to his Hindu Colony newspaper vendor at 5 am to buy the publications.

Vengsarkar also remembered being adjudged the SJAM’s best junior cricketer of the year in the 1970s. While we sat listening to Vengsarkar, he surprised us by announcing a Rs 25,000 reward to the best junior cricketer of the year. It was a fine gesture, no doubt, but it also showed that the media and sportspersons enjoy a common love for rewarding athletes. Most media persons are modest when it comes to accepting appreciation, but they are very valued from the people on the other side of the fence.

Shishir Hattangadi, the former Mumbai captain, told me on Wednesday how journalist Makarand Waingankar (he is now more involved in cricket consultancy) took the trouble to call then BCCI president M Chinnaswamy to include him and Ravi Shastri in Hemu Adhikari’s national camp held at the Brabourne Stadium. Waingankar, according to Hattangadi, also urged Vengsarkar to include him and Shastri in his Gulabi XI, which participated in the Moin-ud-Dowlah tournament in Hyderabad in 1979-80. Waingankar was among the 18 journalists felicitated, but couldn’t make it as he was busy in Bangalore, where he is a consultant for the Karnataka State Cricket Association.

H Natarajan, whose work for Indian Express was commendable in the 1980s and 1990s, was another who couldn’t attend. Ditto Peter Rodrigues, the tireless reporter and sub-editor of the 1970s and 1980s and David D’Souza, who covered various sports but did particularly well during the 1982 World Cup hockey for Sportsweek magazine.
The guests among the gathering were delighted to see two agency reporters being honoured—Jemi Bardoliwala (United News of India) and SS Ramaswamy (Press Trust of India). 

The latter was a sharp reporter armed with the experience of covering the Olympics and other big events. Cricket reporting could also be considered his forte. In 2000, the SJAM asked ex-BCCI president Raj Singh Dungarpur to write about 12 journalists (Behram Contractor aka Busybee was his 12th man) for a souvenir and judge them from a match referee’s point of view. About Ramaswamy he wrote, “Can call up half a dozen times in a day either to clarify or to get a story. Between father [Ramaswamy Sr had covered India’s tour to the West Indies in 1961-62] and son, they would have covered more sporting events globally. I don’t think I as a match referee will be able to find any fault with Ramu.”

Also among the 18 journalists honoured, three were photographers—Mukesh Parpiani,  PM Shirodkar and Anthony Azavedo. Shirodkar, 90, who received his award in a wheelchair, was an energetic lensman. Dwarkanath ‘Pappu’ Sanzgiri, the famous Marathi sports writer, made it for the function despite being in the throes of a major illness. Fredun De Vitre, the man with a lovely voice and pleasing personality, who graced our 1970s black and white television sets, was honoured with a medal too. 

How can anecdotes not be remembered at a function like this? Among the awardees and audience were real characters. One of them came on an All India JK Bose cricket tournament tour to Delhi in the 1980s and returned to Mumbai once he discovered that he was not in the SJAM playing XI—a la Sidhu. Another used to blurt out so many expletives when something went wrong as deadline approached, that someone suggested that the hot-headed reporter’s typewriter could be auctioned under the label, ‘the most abused typewriter in the history of Indian cricket.’ And who can forget a now-deceased journalist successfully convincing a newcomer in the Brabourne Stadium press box that the daily food and tea coupons (R150 for each of the three days) could be encashed at the end of the Mumbai v Aus game in 1998. When one seasoned pro was introduced to a current broadsheet writer, he reminded him of a hard-drinking journalist’s quote, “You can only be a good journalist if you are a good drinker.” Laughter was a given.

It’s at functions like these that journalism appears to be a fun road. It can also be seriously rewarding in terms of being honoured by members of your own fraternity.

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

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