A life devoted to Indian cricket
Kapil Dev, India captain in 1983 and from 1985-87
He was instrumental in my first trip abroad - in 1975 to Kenya, where he took us to play unofficial cricket. I was still a schoolboy then. It was such a beautiful memory because I was a baby sharing time with, and serving, giants like Tiger Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath, Eknath Solkar. It was a great moment for me and since he gave me the opportunity I can't say enough thanks to him for that. We used to call him Raj bhai [elder brother] and he was indeed a father figure to everyone.
I have more regards for Raj bhai, not only because he loved the game but for the fact that he was probably the only board president who played first-class cricket. So he always had a feeling (for a player) and I admired him for that because he could understand the player's view. He was born to serve, talk and play cricket and nobody served it better than him. He was strong-headed on certain occasions but that was nowhere near to the service he gave to cricket. He was not a talker, he would be there in the field doing things. An abiding memory for me was that he wanted to run the game without forgetting it was a gentleman's game, so he would always stress on the mannerisms of a player and his behaviour. He was himself a gentleman first. Irreplaceable!
Salim Durrani, former Rajasthan team-mate and long-time friend
He would call me James or Jimmy (reasons not clear) and I would address him as Bapu (term used as a mark of respect). In 1958, I went to Udaipur and that was the first time I met him and he immediately took a liking to me. Regardless of his stature as the prince of Dungarpur he would always give me respect. He was a prince in the real sense, as everybody who met him would walk out with a good feeling. CCI [Cricket Club of India] today is a prestigious club and that is only due to him and his love for the place - he nurtured it like a good parent. He was very progressive and would not stop at nothing if he made up his mind.
He was a fighter, always thinking. One of my favourite moments was when Rajasthan were playing Mysore and we needed 22 more runs with [Erapalli] Prasanna and [BS] Chandrashekar on top of us. Bapu came in at No.8 and immediately turned the game in our favour. My personal contribution was 70, so I told him we needed to celebrate the victory. He knew I was drinking less water back then! Later in the evening there was a full box of beers with the message "With love to Jimmy".
Another interesting incident was in the Duleep Trophy in 1971, when Central Zone were travelling to Hyderabad to play South Zone in the semis. We had already defeated North in Nagpur. Bapu didn't play that game but told me, "Jimmy, ball leke daudta to hai tu, par ab ki baar gol kar de na." (Don't just run with the ball but score the goal). South was led by [ML] Jasimha saab, and included Pataudi, Viswanath, Chandrashekar, Prasanna, Abbas Ali Baig. Still, we won and I excelled with a knock of 83 and a match haul of 11 wickets. We proceeded to Bangalore to play the final against West. Bapu alerted me again, "Now you have to score the second goal, win the trophy." West was another stiff opponent with Gavaskar, Solkar, Wadekar, Abdul Ismail and Milind Rege. I made an unbeaten 83 in the second innings and we got to the target. Bapu was so happy.
He was a kind soul, who always believed in giving - never waiting for anything in return or waiting for compliments.
Anil Kumble, India captain from 2007-2008
He was chairman of selectors when they chose me after I had only played two or three Wills Trophy games back in 1989-90. I was very raw but he still picked me for the Sharjah tour. Right throughout my time in cricket he had a very special place in his heart for me, as he followed my career very closely. He came across as a nice human being, spoke really well and it was very comfortable talking to him. Even if he was an administrator during my early years he made me feel I belonged there. He did tell me he was instrumental in picking me up during the Wills Trophy in Mumbai but he always had confidence in me. He gave my ten-wicket picture [in an innings at Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi] a special place at the CCI, which is visible as soon as you enter the club. He was one of those very keen followers of the game, who supported players. Even during the contracts issue in 2001, he was part of the BCCI committee and he was pretty vocal in the meetings. A disciplined man, he was articulate and never intimidating as an administrator. He was humble - you could go to him and he would always listen to you.
Vasu Paranjpe, former Mumbai player and coach
I have not seen a greater cricket lover than him. He had his problems with my views on his selections so we used to have a lot of arguments but he appreciated my comments. He always believed in my judgement: there was an occasion when he, as chairman of selectors, was in two minds about whether to pick Mohinder Amarnath or Dilip Vengsarkar. I told him, "you take Vengsarkar and you wouldn't repent". The day Vengsarkar played his hundredth Test, at Wankhede Stadium, against New Zealand, Raj bhai called me 5am in morning. "You are the man to make the right judgement," he said. I said "Thank you."
We spent a lot of time at the CCI having constructive debates. One of the best ways of spending time was to pick all-time XIs from various countries. Once we were picking the all-time world XI and we argued about one of his selections, Ted Dexter. I said Dexter is no match on Everton Weekes. He said, "I know he is not a better player than Weekes but allow me to pick at least one guy. Now, shut up." We used to argue on many things but that was our favourite pastime, to pick teams. He would always say without cricket he will die. I would say "You might be the second one because I would be the first." That was our way of having a laugh.
Jagmohan Dalmiya, former BCCI president and co-administrator
No one can take away his contribution to Indian cricket. He was associated with the game for over 50 years and he was an institution on cricket by himself. We spent some great moments together. This is a void created which Indian cricket will find hard to fill up.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo