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Cricketers on their idols

Farokh Engineer on Polly Umrigar

Captain, my captain

The idol who became a team-mate

Nagraj Gollapudi

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Polly Umrigar on the 1959 tour of England © Getty Images
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Polly Umrigar was my first cricketing hero, and that had little to do with the fact that he too was a Parsi like me. I remember in club cricket he was often called upon to play in the big matches, and he always delivered the goods. I liked that, and it was one of the reasons why I looked up to him.

Once, during one of those club games, I was sitting in the tent watching Polly bat. I knew he would want a drink of water sometime during his innings, and I wanted to be sure to be the one to deliver it.

The break came. I ran like hell so nobody would beat me to it, washed the glass properly, filled it with cold water and ran up to Polly out in the field. He placed a hand on my head and said, "Thanks, son." Little did we realise that we would one day share the same dressing room in Test cricket.

When I got the opportunity to play alongside him, my admiration only grew. He was always very humble - that was a good lesson to me. He was also an excellent captain - certainly the best I played under - and I learned a lot from him. He would be the captain of my dream Test XI.

As told to Nagraj Gollapudi. This article was first published in the print edition of Cricinfo Magazine in 2007

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