Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More tales from Moin-ud-Dowla

“Match nahin dekha to hum ko bahut dukh hota ba,” little G R Viswanath said in his pidgin Hindi to an intruder into the players' enclosure blocking his view as he sat with pads on. The place was the Lal Bahadur Stadium, Hyderabad and the occasion a Moin-ud-Dowla Gold Cup match. His teammates in the State Bank of India team knew that Vishy simply had to watch every ball while awaiting his turn to bat, getting up from his perch only during the drinks break to go into the dressing room to do some shadow practice or wrist exercises with the steel presses he constantly carried with him. This was around 1974 or so, and Vishy was already a Test veteran of some six summers, but he was still a boy at heart, polite, humble, his quiet, mischievous sense of humour part of his charm.

An apocryphal story of the time had it that he turned up for a game without thigh pads, and was wandering around trying to borrow one from one of the other players, when one of them advised him to ask Salim Durrani. To Vishy's innocent query, Durrani's alleged retort was revealing if completely unhelpful. “Look young man, do you see that huge picture in the dressing room? (He was referring to a blow-up of Wesley Hall). I never wore thigh pads when facing him. Do you expect me to one now?”

The lefthanded genius was the author of one of the many great stories you were privileged to listen to during that golden era of the Gold Cup, if you happened to be a player taking part. When we were not playing we watched other matches in rather distinguished company including the likes of Salim Durrani and M L Jaisimha, V V Kumar and E A S Prasanna, to name a few. The conversation on one occasion veered around to the practical jokes MAK Pataudi reportedly played on some of his cricket friends. Durrani came up with this particularly diverting version of a popular episode of that genre. (The story of a stage managed dacoity in the vicinity of Bhopal, Pataudi's maternal ancestral home has been told elsewhere. Palace servants disguised as dacoits came rushing to where the young Karnataka players Viswanath and Chandrasekhar were in the woods after a gunshot was heard and announced that Prasanna had been killed. The youngsters burst into tears, believing the yarn).

According to Durrani, Vijay Manjrekar, retired from Test cricket, and an officer in Air India then, handed over his watch to one of the "dacoits" and told him that was all he possessed. “Please let me go, I'm an LDC (lower division clerk) in Morarjee Mills, basic pay Rs.300, DA Rs.225, HRA Rs.150. I'm a poor man with a family to support.” At this point, Raj Singh Dungarpur, unable to control his laughter, ran off towards a nearby hideout to join Pataudi's mother and sister, watching all the fun from there. Manjrekar, who Durrani said maintained to his dying day that it was a real dacoity, is said to have insisted later that Raj Singh had beaten a cowardly retreat. “Sala, Rajput bolta hai, darke bhag gaya.”


sampath said...

Great story, good post. I stumbled on to this through cricinfo for a 2nd time after your previous post on Saad Bin Jung which was cool too. Unfortunately you didn't elaborate on how he lost his way and how good he was. His numbers are no great shakes though. Care to elaborate? Thanks for a nice job.

vivek said...

being a rajput myself too and a cricket fanatic i am rolling on the floor laughing out loud ... hats off to durani sir.

Ramnarayan said...

Thanks Sampath and Vivek. I'm glad you liked the stories as mcuh as I did. There are more where these came from, but some of them will call for fictitious names, if they are to see the light of day in print!

Anonymous said...

Excellent articles to know the real humans off the field behind the public cricketers on the field.
Post more often, perhaps you could team up with some like minded folks from the Western, Eastern, Central & North zones for their tidbits.
And yes, please do write the truth with fictitious names.
Keep it up and speedy recovery to your brother.

Suresh said...

Hi Ram, great story sir..n remember a few little encounters with Vishy myself..bests, Suresh

Abhik said...

Mr. Ramnarayan,
Just came across your blog through a link on cricinfo and I'm delighted to read tales such as this one. Hope to read more of such stories concerning the Indian domestic circuit. I am currently reading 'States of Indian Cricket' by Ramchandra Guha where he writes lyrically about Indian cricket, some of which involve you and other wonderfully illustrious colleagues of yours from Hyderabad.

Prabu said...

Mr. Ramnarayan, I used to read up all your articles on Chennaionline when you wrote about TN cricket and am happy to see that you are blogging these days with your stories from the past. This is really wonderful!

Ramnarayan said...

Thank you all. I've been forced into hibernation for a while by a major project. Will be back soon.