Clockwork man - The tale of a Haryana scorer
Somewhere in the middle of some furious lathi charging outside the stadium, and an attritional battle inside, was a felicitation ceremony to honour the cricketing heroes of Haryana. Somewhere in the middle of the roll of honour, that included former stars and coaches, was a nondescript name - Rakesh Sanghi, official scorer of the Punjab and Haryana Cricket Associations. He may not be a household name in either state, but it was a just reward for 42 years of largely thankless toil.
For 24 years, between 1974 and 1998, Sanghi was a fixture in the Haryana side. He was present at every single game they played in that period and nurtured, "talented young boys" like Kapil Dev and Ajay Jadeja, two stars who were also feted today. He remembers those scorching days under the sun, when he sat with his scorebook near the boundary line, jotting down the minute details. It's interesting to note that he made his scoring debut by accident - when a young basher called Kapil was carting the ball around in an inter-school game. "Kapil used to score too fast and there was nobody to note things down. I decided to keep track and was soon addicted to scoring."
Yet taking up scoring as a profession was never an option. Sanghi, a special correspondent of the Punjab Kesari, a vernacular daily based in Chandigarh, laments about the poor financial returns. It's quite anachronistic that, in an era when the Indian board talks mostly in millions and its multiples, the scorers receive a a daily remuneration of 1000 rupees (US$20) for an international game. It drops to a pathetic 600 rupees for a domestic game (nearly one-tenth the umpires' fees) and it's a startlingly small sum considering the demanding nature of the job.
Sanghi couldn't spend more than ten minutes at the function since he had to rush back for the second innings. Often, scorers have no time to eat lunch or visit the lavatory. Even the smallest of mistakes could alter the eventual result. Sanghi remembers the time when there was confusion over Rajinder Goel's record. Goel, the highest wicket-taker in Ranji Trophy history, could have ended up with 635 scalps, but for Sanghi realising that five of his victims were wrongly attributed to his namesake, G Goel. Sanghi fondly remembers a newspaper recognising his worth with a headline: 'Goel takes 635, Sanghi gifts him five.'
Kapil, Jadeja, Chetan Sharma, Ashok Malhotra and Vijay Yadav might have been the stars on show but none of them will grudge being joined by Sanghi, a man without whom, as Sharma fondly put it, "matches in Haryana couldn't start".
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo