September 7, 2003

GS Ramchand, former Indian captain dead

GS Ramchand, a former Indian captain, died tonight at the Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai. He had been in and out of hospital after suffering three heart attacks in the last two months. He was 76.

Ramchand had recently been discharged from the Intensive Care Unit, but although his condition had improved, Leela Ramchand, his wife, said at the time that financial considerations had precipitated the move. "He is still very weak," she said, "but he had to be shifted out of the ICU as we cannot afford it."

Following that request - and criticism from former players such as Mushtaq Ali - the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) granted Rs two lakh "on an ad-hoc basis" for Ramchand's treatment, with more to follow if it was needed. But it proved too late.

Ramchand was a hard-hitting batsman and a medium-pace inswing bowler, whose finest hour came when he led India to victory in the Kanpur Test against Richie Benaud's Australians in 1959-60. It was his final series, in which he won one Test and lost two.

He notched two centuries in a 33-Test career which started with the England tour in 1952. Both his hundreds came on Indian soil; the first an unbeaten 106 against New Zealand at Kolkata in 1955-56, and the second against Australia at Bombay the following season.

The Kanpur Test victory will always remain significant for it was India's first against Australia. Apart from serving India with bat and ball, Ramchand was also manager of the Indian team during the first World Cup in England in 1975. He also managed the team for the odd Test in the early '80s. His last was against West Indies in 1987-88.

Ramchand was a sharp critic of Indian cricket when it came to both players and the administration. Despite playing his cricket at a time when there was little or no remuneration he was never bitter, unlike several of his contemporaries. Even in advancing years, he was always happy to have a word with journalists, and usually provided a juicy quote or two. When he was given the runaround for a car-park pass by the Mumbai Cricket Association authorities before the India v West Indies Test match in early 2002, he famously remarked "We are being treated like s**t."

Former team-mates, and perhaps more so journalists, will miss this straight-talking character.