September 13, 2009

Indian cricket

Farewell Rajbhai

Cricinfo

Raj Singh Dungarpur, the former BCCI president, died on Saturday aged 73. He had been associated with Indian cricket for nearly 50 years, starting with a 16-year first-class career as a medium-pacer for Rajasthan. He then served as national selector, the Indian team's manager on tours abroad, besides a three-year term as BCCI president. He was the chief of selectors when Mohammad Azharuddin was surprisingly chosen to lead India in 1989, and remained a staunch supporter of Azhar, even when the match-fixing controversy broke. Azhar leads the tributes to Dungarpur, writing in DNA that Dungarpur always treated him like a son.

Rajbhai will always have a special place in my heart. He was one of the two people, the other being Kapil Dev, who stood by me and spoke in my favour when I was going through difficult times. His support meant a lot to me.

Dungarpur was renowned to be a great raconteur, always ready to recount an anecdote or two about a past Indian great. In Mid-Day, Clayton Murzello regrets that Dungarpur didn't write a book on his cricketing experiences. He also recalls being with Dungarpur when new of the Hansie Cronje match-fixing controversy broke.

One cannot forget how anguished he was in Dhaka, 2000 when the Hansie Cronje match fixing controversy broke out. At first, he was not willing to believe it. But as confirmation came through at the coffee shop where we both had a sandwich, you could see how sad he was to see his beloved sport tarnished. He insisted on picking up the tab. "I must pay. Nothing to celebrate, of course," he said.
After he paid the bill, he got chatting to a youngster about cricket. The kid spoke about how he wanted to make it to Lord's one day. And I heard this in the background: "Son, you can stay in my flat in London. It is right opposite Lord's." He had never met the boy before and the goodness of this prince came shining through.

In the Bangalore Mirror, veteran cricket journalist Rajan Bala remembers the manner in which Dungarpur, as team manager, handled the crisis caused by the assassination of Indira Gandhi when India was touring Pakistan in 1984.

Another senior journalist Lokendra Pratap Sahi fondly recalls in the Telegraph the way Dungarpur went out of his way to treat the media as an extension of the Indian cricket team.

V Veera Kumar writes in Cricketnext.com that Dungarpur hated it when the word 'arch-rivals' was used to describe India's relations with Pakistan, saying that such a word shouldn't be used in a gentlemanly game like cricket.

Rediff.com have put together a slide show highlighting Dungarpur's contributions to Indian cricket, including the famous decision to pick 16-year-old Sachin Tendulkar for the Pakistan tour in 1989.

Also read Ayaz Memon's tribute to Dungarpur on Cricinfo.

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