India news June 10, 2014

Former Mumbai cricketer Vithal Patil dies aged 86

Vithal Patil, former Mumbai fast bowler, and a stalwart at the Dadar Union Sporting Club, passed away in Mumbai due to old age. Patil was 86.

Despite getting only two matches for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy Patil gained eminence in the once prestigious HD Kanga League club tournament, which used to be played in the monsoons. Patil, who would be nicknamed "Marshall", joined Dadar Union in 1952 and continued to play even at the ripe age of 59 till he retired in 1984. During that span he picked 759 wickets, a record that stands till today.

Dilip Vengsarkar, former Mumbai and India batsman and captain, met Patil for the first time as a 12-year-old. Patil was a coach for King George High School and mentored Vengsarkar from the Giles Shield school tournament onwards and later at Dadar Union. "He was a very punctual, disciplined, dedicated man," Vengsarkar said. "He used to be there at 6.45 am sharp when the training was scheduled for 7 am. He would bowl tirelessly for hours in the nets. The one good thing about him was he would never interfere with the natural technique of a player," Vengsarkar said.

Loyalty, Vengsarkar pointed out, was something Patil valued above everything else. "He took serious pride in playing for Dadar Union. He was always concerned about the club and its players' form. He paid attention to every minor detail even after he retired," Vengsarkar said.

Vasu Paranjpe, former Dadar Union captain and Mumbai batsman, met Patil only recently when the pair visited former India Test cricketer Madhav Mantri's funeral. Incidentally Mantri, who also played for Dadar Union, was Patil's mentor. Paranaje was Patil's captain at Dadar Union and the duo shared a 30-year-old long relationship from the mid-1950s till 1984 when Patil retired. "He was an excellent team man and probably finest new ball bowler I saw in club cricket," Paranjpe said.

Patil was about 5'9" tall but never strived for pace. "He had nothing to do with pace. He had everything to do with craft," Paranjpe said of Patil's strengths as a fast bowler. From beginning till the end Patil always was fascinated and keen to bowl with the new cherry. "My only question to him was which end, Marshall? He would respond saying 'Any, but give me the new one'", Paranjpe said.

What stood out for Vengsarkar was Patil's relentless thirst to bowl. "He and Urmikant Modi would bowl 25 overs each since there were no restrictions on bowlers. Little wonder he remains still the highest wicket-taker in Kanga League still," Vengsarkar said.

In addition to his cricketing discipline, both Vengsarkar and Paranjpe pointed out Patil paid a lot of attention to his appearance. "He always used to wear spotless cream shirts and trousers, shoes polished. I never saw him in a shabby attire," Vengsarkar said. Paranjpe echoed that sentiment: "He was the most immaculately dressed cricketer I ever saw in my life."

For Vengsarkar commitment, dedication and discipline is something every player and administrator could learn from Patil.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo