Raman Lamba

LAMBA, RAMAN, the former Indian Test player, died in a Dhaka hospital on February 23, 1998, aged 38. Three days earlier he had been hit on the temple while fielding, without a helmet, at short leg in front of a substantial crowd at a big club match at the Bangabandhu Stadium. Lamba walked off the field and the injury appeared not to be serious, but he suffered an internal haemorrhage and his condition worsened dramatically. A neurosurgeon was flown in from Delhi but it was already too late. The news caused widespread grief in both India and Bangladesh. Lamba was a popular cricketer in India, but in Bangladesh he was a legend.

He first went there to play club cricket in 1991, and was a key figure in the revival of interest in the game there. "I am the Don of Dhaka," he would joke to his Indian friends. The tragedy happened in Dhaka's traditional local derby between Mohammedans and Abahani, when Maharab Hossain, the Mohammedans' opener, played a full-blooded pull shot. Lamba had only moved in from the outfield that delivery and it was reported that he had already signalled for a helmet. Lamba was known to be fearless, though, as well as an exceptionally committed and enthusiastic player. The commitment sometimes went too far: he was banned for ten months after provoking Rashid Patel, who charged after him brandishing a stump in the 1990-91 Duleep Trophy final.

Critics also pointed to his technical shortcomings, but he always hoped for a recall to the Indian team after his four indifferent Tests in the late 1980s: "Runs I am going to make," he would say, "then we shall see." And he did make runs. His career average was over 50: in 1996-97, his 19th season, he scored 1,034 runs in just 14 innings for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy. He was one of only two Indians (with Vijay Hazare) to score two triple-centuries: 320 for North Zone in the 1987-88 Duleep Trophy final, and 312 for Delhi against Himachal Pradesh in 1994-95. He had been chosen to tour England in 1986, but failed to make the Test team.

He did, however, establish a lasting rapport with Ulster: he played club cricket there for 12 years, appeared four times for Ireland, and married an Irish girl. They had two children. "I admired his guts," said his former team-mate Maninder Singh. "He never believed he could be defeated." Only two cricketers are known to have died as a result of on-field injuries in a first-class fixture. Both were hit while batting: George Summers of Nottinghamshire on the head at Lord's in 1870; and Abdul Aziz, the Karachi wicket-keeper, over the heart in the 1958-59 Quaid-e-Azam final. The last first-class cricketer to die after being hit in any match was Ian Folley of Lancashire, playing for Whitehaven in 1993.

© John Wisden & Co