The idol who went too soon

Raman Lamba was a feisty strokeplayer, a stern mentor who brooked no passengers, and a hero to a generation of Indian cricketers

Aakash Chopra

April 10, 2013

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Raman Lamba bats
Lamba: a hard taskmaster, and hard on himself © MiD DAY Infomedia Ltd
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I was all of nine when Raman Lamba bagged his Man of the Series award against Australia in India. And it was his debut international series. At that age, playing for the country, possessing the India jersey, was bigger than the biggest dream I'd ever dreamed - perhaps a little too spectacular to come true.

The sight of Raman holding the trophy aloft wasn't quite etched in my mind - not as much as the sight of him dancing down the track to the world's most ferocious bowler, Craig McDermott (a kid's world consists of things and people he can see) and smashing him for a six over point. It was Raman Lamba the feisty, gritty cricketer who was more important to me than Raman Lamba the India cricketer.

So audacious and extravagant was the shot that the thought of replicating it never once crossed my mind. And so it's probably a little odd when I confess that Raman Lamba, though I never emulated him, has remained my favourite cricketer. Such was his appeal that I ended up joining the club he played for in Delhi - Sonnet. As much as I wanted to learn the game and realise my dream of playing for India, signing up with the club was also equally about getting an opportunity to see him in flesh and blood.

The opportunity came soon and left me awestruck. Raman had long hair, walked with a swagger, and batted to dominate the bowlers. Sonnet used to practice on jute matting in those days, which produced uneven bounce regularly, and so the sight of a batsman playing quality fast bowlers (who were always missing the popping crease by a foot or so) with utter disdain was something to behold.

His fast bat-swing, lightning-quick footwork to get to the pitch of the delivery, the flair with which he flayed the ball, his bottom-hand-dominated grip on the bat (so much so that he would trim the shoulders of the bat because the wood dug into his bottom hand), and penchant to go over the top at the first opportunity wasn't the sort of stuff you needed to learn if you wanted to be an opener, or were just starting to learn how to hold the bat properly. Raman was one of those you'd admire silently, while knowing deep within that even attempting to imitate his style would be suicidal.

I didn't have many interactions with him after his brief stints at the club, because he was either busy playing for India, Delhi or North Zone, or playing professional cricket in Ireland and England. His exploits on the field, especially in first-class cricket, passed into cricket folklore. In those days an Indian first-class cricketer was judged by what the Mumbai players thought of him. We were told that Mumbai feared Raman's presence in the opposition more than they did anyone else's.

Even though he was a bit inflexible - it was always his way or the highway - and we often cursed him under our breath, I still did whatever he asked me to do. It made me a better sportsperson

There was one time when he scored a triple-hundred in a Duleep Trophy game and was so devastated after getting out that he smashed a glass pane in the dressing room. Years later, though I couldn't quite gather up the courage to ask him about that incident, I did ask about how he reacted to getting a triple-century. Unbelievable as it might sound, he was gutted to have missed the opportunity to score a quadruple-century, which he thought would have made a huge difference to his career. I grew up listening to these stories of his insatiable hunger for runs, and the ruthlessness with which he analysed his game, often undermining his achievements in the process.

After spending a few years away, playing professional cricket, Raman came back to the game in India. He had aged many years since when I first saw him, but his enthusiasm and his attitude hadn't changed one bit. By then I was cutting my teeth on serious cricket and he needed no persuasion to take me under his wing. He assumed the role of mentor and became the hardest taskmaster I had ever had. Like all good tutors, he was not only strict with his wards but also equally ruthless with himself. If he told us to run for 5km, he'd be there with us at the finish. In fact, he would ensure he was the first to finish, for coming second wasn't his style. Even though he was a bit inflexible - it was always his way or the highway - and we often cursed him under our breath, I still did whatever he asked me to do. It made me a better sportsperson.

The fact that I was vying for his place in the Delhi Ranji side could potentially have given him reason to be a little wary of me, to abandon me, or at least leave me to my own devices. But what he did instead didn't just display his magnanimity but also his sportsmanship.

He would always single me out for various tasks and push me to get better. He would tell bowlers in the Ranji Trophy nets to pepper me with bouncers. And if I had any misgivings about his abilities, he would demonstrate how to deal with chin music, and everything else a bowler could dish out, both in matches and in the nets. I distinctly remember him sweeping a fast bowler for four over the head of the fielder at square leg in a Ranji one-day match. He knew how to walk the talk. If he wanted a certain amount of competitiveness from us, he was always the first to display it.

Then came the time for my Ranji debut, a game in which the captain requested Raman to sit out to make room for me. While it was against his principles to drop out when he was not injured, he understood the importance of allowing a youngster his chances. He cheered the loudest when I scored a hundred on debut, and he was the first to scold me when I threw my wicket away on 150; he couldn't digest that I had messed up a golden opportunity to score a double-century on debut. His motto in life was that if better was possible, you should go for it.

Then there was another Ranji one-day match, against Punjab in Patiala, when after inspecting the pitch the day before the match, he announced that since the pitch was full of runs, he needed to score 125. He went on to unleash a calculated assault on a decent Punjab attack, and reached the target he had set for himself the day before. It was also his highest List-A score.

Later that year we were playing a Ranji game in Tamil Nadu (he was in Bangladesh playing league cricket), when we heard the shocking news of his death. For my generation of Delhi cricketers, it was a huge loss: we lost our mentor and our role model.

Even if I've tried to follow his work ethic ever since, I can say without an ounce of doubt that I, and other young cricketers in Delhi, would have ended up as far better cricketers had he been with us for longer.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Naresh28 on (April 12, 2013, 10:41 GMT)

Akash- You should repay someone you held in high esteem by becoming a batting coach. We knew little about Raman Lamba but knew he was a good bat. Thanks for this article.

Posted by cricPassion2009 on (April 12, 2013, 5:48 GMT)

Raman Lamba - lovely to watch him play. There was an aristocratic touch to him and his disciplined style. It is not the volume of runs, but how he made them, and how fearless he was. A bit of Mohinder Amarnath in him, for that unhurried style. A third-man six or a pull or off-drive were all his effortless, pet strokes. Brief but impact-making career. He would have been an asset in IPL matches. We miss you buddy.

Posted by Ravishankara on (April 12, 2013, 1:52 GMT)

I was a big fan of Raman Lamba. why he did not play more matches for India.

Posted by lovepork on (April 11, 2013, 23:58 GMT)

RIP Raman, still remember your heroics against Australia, would have been superhit in IPL.

Posted by Muni_Malhotra on (April 11, 2013, 23:24 GMT)

My memory of Raman Lamba is that of a dashing cricketer. It was shocking to hear of the accident. I recall the heartbreaking image of Kim and the funeral pyre. Thank you Kim for your posts. May God give you and your children, Jasmyn and Kamran, all the strength and blessings to live successful, happy and long lives. Warm regards from an Indian cricket fan.

I completely agree with another comment that the BCCI should honor Raman Lamba's memory in some way.

Posted by balajik1968 on (April 11, 2013, 16:45 GMT)

My favourite Raman Lamba story. In late 1986, the then PM of India, Rajiv Gandhi visited Rajghat. A would be assassin hid himself there and took a shot at him and fortunately missed. There was a cartoon in a magazine spoofing this. It shows the conversation between a senior police officer and his subordinate, which went something like this: Senior officer: You heard the shot? Subordinate: Yes sir. Senior officer: Why did'nt you investigate? Subordinate: I thought it was Raman Lamba hitting a six.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2013, 15:32 GMT)

This is a very moving account Askash depicting Raman to a T! Thank you so much for sharing - both his children Jasmyn and Kamran will adore reading this article along with the responding comments. Warmest regards, Kim Lamba (wife of Raman Lamba)

Posted by   on (April 11, 2013, 6:00 GMT)

I remember the Six over point. Tried replicating it a few times only to get caught at slips. Great Man.. Great Shot.

Posted by vxttemp on (April 11, 2013, 3:59 GMT)

If I could recollect my memory, I think, when Lamba was inform and got injured, gave an opportunity to Azhar(against pakistan in pakistan - It was almost certain that Azhar will be dropped) and Azhar went on to score a century, after the series team returned to India and Azhar became the captain of India. But sadly, I don't think Lamba ever got a chance to represent India again.

Posted by kapsy on (April 11, 2013, 2:24 GMT)

Many years ago, when Sri Lanka were relatively new, I was watching an ODI between SL & India. There was a little excited buzz in the crowd 'cos it was Kapil's turn to bat. But it was Raman who ran out instead. One could see Kapil at the gate gesticulating that his spot had been stolen. There was confusion all around, especially in the commentators' box. Then the stadium erupted! Raman smashed 40-odd runs in no time and won India the match. Raman Lamba was my Dad's favourite batsman. Sadly, my Dad died 2 days after Raman. Sachin scored a double hundred for Bombay against the visiting Aussies on 26 Feb 1998. To me, this was Sachin's tribute to Raman...and my to Dad.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2013, 2:05 GMT)

Lovely article. every body in school wanted to be the fearless Raman Lamba. the old bw tv sets were did not stop anyone from dreaming in color and the Indian team with srikant and lamba completed the rainbow.

Posted by   on (April 10, 2013, 23:29 GMT)

Touching Akash! I too got inducted into cricket in mid eighties and Raman lamba was one of the favourites that time. In fact, I remember the star studded delhi with run machines like Raman Lamba, Ajay Sharma, Bhaskar Pillai who used to give Mumbai a run for their money. Thanks for bringing this side of his to us. Now I feel the loss is even more huge!

Posted by   on (April 10, 2013, 22:40 GMT)

Nice article about a cricketer, who probably deserved more mention in the Indian cricketing history that he has got. A no non-sense player and a strict disciplinarian who was an inspiration to many budding cricketers including the author. Though I could not get to see him live, it was quite evident from what I saw on television that he was a very good prospect. He was a terrific human being as mentioned by many of his colleagues. Tragic events do take a different turn in human's life, Raman Lamba unfortunately became a victim to one of them.

Posted by   on (April 10, 2013, 20:15 GMT)

I remember Raman Lamba and K Srikanth's blistering opening partnerships. My father remarked that his last name should be Lumba (long in hindi) as he hits the ball long. His international career was short, but he definitely left a lasting impression. I always wondered why he couldn't make it to the Indian team again. Was it due to his unorthodox approach to batting? Few years after his passing away, Kalu and Jayasuria pretty much used his approach to redefine one day cricket. Hats off to a great player. Also curious about his Irish wife. God bless.

Posted by SarfBD on (April 10, 2013, 17:57 GMT)

@ Batmanindallas, Raman's wife, Kim Lamba, commented on a cricinfo article. She talked about their children and family. You'll find it here:

Posted by Batmanindallas on (April 10, 2013, 16:52 GMT)

Raman Lamba was a star before Cricketers were stars with his movie star looks and swashbuckling batting style. I always wonder what happened to his family-he married an irish girl if I my memory serves me right

Posted by SarfBD on (April 10, 2013, 15:43 GMT)

We still remember you Raman...

Posted by   on (April 10, 2013, 15:12 GMT)

I was 12 yr old kid when Raman Lamba came to Gwalior to play Ranji final against Delhi (Aprl-97),I was a ball boy in that match and was throwing ball to him in net practice. When done he said thanks and asked if I need anything. I said, I want to bat like you and in the very next moment he asked me to hold the bat and he started teaching me, after some time the Delhi team was leaving for the hotel but he asked the team to go ahead and we kept on practicing for the next hour or so.Such was the easy going personality of Lamba sir....

Posted by   on (April 10, 2013, 13:27 GMT)

Thks Akash for igniting old memories!That shot over point off the fast bowlers is the one I remember the most,don't think anyone today plays that.

Posted by   on (April 10, 2013, 13:15 GMT)

Wonderful article about a wonderful cricketer. The younger generation really do need to know more about these forgotten heroes. He might not have the average to back up his talent, but he truly was someone that was swashbuckling & someone that gave his 100% for the team. A real pity that guys like him & Ajay Sharma didn't translate their potential into achievements on the international stage

Posted by ooper_cut on (April 10, 2013, 12:50 GMT)

He was a very stylish cricketer with his long hair. I loved to see his batting, but I guess he did not do well later on. The news of his death and how he died was a BIG SHOCK to me though. He deserved to live longer and not die that way.

Posted by KiwiRocker- on (April 10, 2013, 12:00 GMT)

I have a memory of Raman Lamba but my memory actually involves my most favourite bowler, Waqar Younis. It was some time in late 80's. I was very little but still glued to TV and addicted to beautiful game of cricket. Pakistan and India's domestic winnters used to play a Wills Cup match to decide a winner. It was great days when game was played like a game without any political dramas. Players like Azhar Ud Din, Kapil Dev, Wasim Akram, Javed Miandad, Gavaskar and Imran Khan relied on their skill and talent rather than sponsorships. It was one of those Wills cup matches where Waqar Younis bowled a sensational spell of express fast bowling. Speed guns were not around but Waqar was bowling in Mid 150's. One of his bouncers was top edged by brave Raman Lamba and bowl flew for a full six runs! It was a courageous batting by Raman Lamba against a lethal fast bowler. Apparently, Imran Khan was watching that match and Waqar Younis was soon drafted into Pakistani squad and rest is the history!

Posted by   on (April 10, 2013, 11:46 GMT)

I remember he open with my favourite man krish srikkanth

Posted by   on (April 10, 2013, 11:31 GMT)

One of the best player and started playing innovation shots against the bowlers. His onslaught against the aussies bowlers in his depute series one of the best series he has played. Surprisingly he was not included in the Reliance cup lot of politics as usual in the Indian cricket shortened his carrier

Posted by ultrasnow on (April 10, 2013, 11:20 GMT)

R.I.P Prince, R.I.P Raman Lamba

Posted by ShyamSunderVyas on (April 10, 2013, 11:18 GMT)

Thanks Aakash for this piece. I remember watching Raman Lamba as a kid, and he was everything a young kid found in a cricketer, which he had not found in earlier cricketers. Much more impressing was his scoring ability, I remember him scoring scores mostly in excess of 60. During that period when most of the other indian batsmen struggled, he was the only one scoring consistently. Whenever he walked in to bat, I was assured that we will have a score in excess of 60 by this batsman atleast.

Posted by RandomTalk on (April 10, 2013, 10:42 GMT)

Aakash, I remember Raman Lamba's six off McDermott over point clearly. The audacity, the speed and power with which he hit the ball remains indelibly stamped in my brain. If memory serves me, I remember the commentator saying that he had never seen a six hit over point, that too by an Indian off any fast bowler. It has been repeated many times since, but to my knowledge, never before by an Indian. Remember that there were no heavy bats at that time as there are now. He was indeed an unforgettable character.

Posted by sunilnair_m on (April 10, 2013, 10:11 GMT)

@US_Indian,the intention of this article was not to showcase Raman Lamba's achievements in the world of cricket.Instead it is a tribute to a great human being.Yes,his records in List A and international matches are mediocre.But that is not what the main point is.Coming to the second question- You can dismiss the achievement of players as ordinary but these folks have contributed in someway or another.Who can forget Madan Lal's contribution in 1983 world cup?Ajay sharma had an outstanding first class career which resulted in him earning a berth in Indian squad.However he couldn't sustain the performance in International arena.As you said,there could be many unfortunate ones who missed the ticket to the Indian team.But that doesn't mean the ones who got into the team do not deserve the opportunity.

Posted by   on (April 10, 2013, 9:41 GMT)

I feel very sorry when i think that such a great cricketer died in my country tragically! I wish he is in better place now. May Allah gives peace towards his family.

Posted by Haleos on (April 10, 2013, 8:56 GMT)

Nice piece Akash. We all miss a cricketer like him. Wish you had picked up some flair from him. our career with India would have been extended and we would not have had to see people like S Ramesh and co. Delhi has given us good openers hope we find some more soon.

Posted by drdatla on (April 10, 2013, 8:07 GMT)

@US_Indian, victor trumper is considered better bat than don by many of his contemporaries. whats's his record when compared to don.people like u who r obs with numbers can understand the true value of a cricketer.kudos to akash.

Posted by banglafan on (April 10, 2013, 8:05 GMT)

Raman Lamba was a much loved cricketer in the Dhaka league. His demise was a huge shock to us in Dhaka too. We hope his wife and children are carrying on with their lives, in his absence.

Posted by Sooraj4cricket on (April 10, 2013, 7:52 GMT)

Wonderfully written and great reminiscences of the bravest Indian cricketer.He was known as 'Rambo' not for nothing.Players like him take the game to the next level.I can now understand why Aakash Chopra was such a good close-in fielder.(Still remember that catch of Langer).It might be 15 years, but its safe to say that his legacy still lives on.Because players with such huge amounts of grit are rare not just in cricket but in any other sporting discipline...!!!

Posted by   on (April 10, 2013, 7:33 GMT)

Tribute To Sir Raman Lamba...Those were golden years of ranji cricket with Raman,Ajay sharma and amarjeet kaypee domestic stalwards arnd!!!

Posted by US_Indian on (April 10, 2013, 7:16 GMT)

Even though it is not nice to speak or write or think bad about any dead person, but my question is what is his record in list A, ranji, zonal and international games even english counties where he didnt play for any top notch clubs like Gavaskar,Kapil, SRT,Azhar,Srinath,Zak, Kumble,doshi etc... If i am right it was just mediocre in comparison. My another question is there have been many a good player from delhi and bombay who didnt make it big where as ordinary folks like Madanlal, Gopal sharma, Ajay sharma, sanjeev sharma, Kirti azad, late raman lamba and few others played similarly ordinary guys from bombay played like Ankola, Kuruvilla, amre, etc. can anyone answer me please?

Posted by CricFan78 on (April 10, 2013, 6:54 GMT)

I remember watching Lamba playing in a Deodhar Trophy match against West Zone and he absolutely tore apart the bowlers. In that inns he played a very pleasing lofted off drive which landed straight into the pavillion. One of my favorite players when I was growing up

Posted by PSarathy on (April 10, 2013, 6:43 GMT)

Thanks, Aakash for remembering this wonderful cricketer - Raman Lamba was a braveheart, with a free flowing style - absolutely fearless, taking the fastest bowlers head-on - great loss and quite unfortunate the way he died !

Posted by cricconnossieur on (April 10, 2013, 6:15 GMT)

Aakash is what he is-calling a spade a spade-thats why we all do not miss reading his articles. For some truth is not easily digestible and are therefore giving away unsolicited advice to him. Aakash you go ahead tell us the inconvenient truths that we dont want to hear !

Posted by   on (April 10, 2013, 5:57 GMT)

Mr Aakash Chopra - thank you for for writing this piece on Raman Lamba. The dashing delhi batsman.....memories are a chest full of priceless treasures....sometimes you lose diamonds...yet they bring back the tears and smiles of when you had them.....

Posted by KumarSubramanyan on (April 10, 2013, 5:24 GMT)

Wonderful Aakash...Can BCCI honor the memory of Raman lamba (who died on the cricket field) in this IPL? He would have loved this format..

Posted by Iluuvcricket on (April 10, 2013, 5:23 GMT)

Very fine article about Raman Lamba, who unfortunately passed away way too early. Yes, these are the types of articles I expect of Aakash. Aakash should stick to these articles, instead of the ones where he has little understanding of the sensitives involved nor the geopolitics involved in the matter to dwell his thoughts (ex: his article on banning of SL players ). I hope he adheres to articles on cricket, where he is excellent at. Also, remember Aakash it is always easy to be a statesman when you have nothing at stake. So, stick to cricket.

Posted by   on (April 10, 2013, 5:03 GMT)

Glad to see he is still remembered and a good read. Most people like me would know him just because of the mishap. Now I know him as much more.

Posted by   on (April 10, 2013, 5:02 GMT)

Emotional words from your pen Mr Akash Chopra. Thank you for bring back a flood of memories. Indeed, Raman sir will be missed by the aficionados of Cricket. May his soul rest in peace :)

Posted by GRVJPR on (April 10, 2013, 4:33 GMT)

This is the sort of article that aakash must focus on, very insipiring!

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Aakash ChopraClose
Aakash Chopra Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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