Former cricketer, administrator and pitch curator G Kasturirangan has died aged 89 after a cardiac arrest in his Bengaluru residence. A fast bowler, Kasturirangan played 36 first-class matches and captained Mysore - now Karnataka - in a career that began in 1948-49 and spanned 14 years.
He took 94 wickets at 22.02 and was to be part of the first Indian squad to tour West Indies in 1952 before pulling out. There is an uncertainty around why, with some chronicles saying it was a groin strain, while others say it was due to personal reasons. But Kasturirangan didn't end up playing for India before retiring from first-class cricket in 1962-63.
He did, however, serve Indian cricket for long after. Kasturirangan was exposed to horticulture through his father, who wrote several books on the subject, and his talents in the field might well have helped when he became chairman of the BCCI grounds and pitches committee, which was formed in 1997. He took over from Kapil Dev, who initially headed the committee, before resigning in 2003 after a communication issue with the board.
"1997 mein pehli committe bani, usse pehle kuch nahi tha. Maali sab banate the, committee nahi tha [Before '97, there was no formal committee, gardeners used to do everything]," said Daljit Singh, who retired as BCCI's chief curator last year. Singh was part of the committee headed by Kasturirangan. "Very knowledgeable. He was the first professional-minded chairman who gave shape to our committee and work. Very knowledgeable, very decent, very accessible. Very good human, very good colleague. And a professional. He was the one who taught us about grass and fertilisers, and soils and all."
Sad to hear about the passing of G Kasturirangan. He will be fondly remembered for all his contributions to cricket. Heartfelt condolences to his family.— Anil Kumble (@anilkumble1074) August 19, 2020
In his immediate post-playing career, Kasturirangan played many roles in Karnataka cricket, including as the selector when Karnataka won its first Ranji title in 1973-74. Erapalli Prasanna, who captained that side, spoke of his relationship with the man who he said was pivotal to his career.
"More than a cricketer-cum-captain, he was a big well-wisher of mine," Prasanna told ESPNcricinfo. "This morning I felt very bad when I heard he was no more.
"Both of us were involved in setting up the stadium with Sri Satya Sai Baba at Puttaparthi. He was very instrumental in guiding me about how to go about preparing the wicket and constructing the stadium. We had such wonderful experiences. It's so sad at this kind of time to think that he is no more.
Only a few days ago, he wished me for my birthday. He just said, "How can I forget that you are the person who took me to Puttaparthi?" When that assignment was given to me, the first person I thought of was Kasturirangan. Both of us went and heard the darshan (prayer song) of Satya Sai Baba. And on my birthday, he repeated that - he said because of you I had a darshan. And that's the last time I spoke to him. He said he was keeping fine, that's all he said. "
Kasturirangan was Prasanna's first captain at domestic level, when he debuted for what was then the Mysore team. In the first innings of his debut match, Prasanna and Kasturirangan split nine wickets between themselves.
"He was a source of inspiration as far as we were concerned. In particular [as far] as I am concerned. When I became captain, he was one of the selectors. We won the Ranji Trophy and he was so proud. What previous generations couldn't achieve, we achieved it. But he did not take anything away from our victory - he said, "You people brought us glory."
"To play under him, perform well - that was a meteoric rise for me because from there I went on to play for the state, went on to play the President's XI [and] for India. Then [I] went on to tour West Indies, bowled against Sir Gary Sobers, Rohan Kanhai and all those people. Became a fairly successful bowler. The man behind the show was Mr. Kasturirangan, and another was KS Vishwanath. All I can say is - my guru, captain, guide - rest in peace."
Former India and Karnataka batsman Brijesh Patel said Kasturirangan was a "guiding force" for him and his peers in the 1970s. Like Kasturirangan, Patel too led Karnataka and held various administrative posts at KSCA. In the mid-2000s, Patel, who is currently the IPL Governing Council chairman, fought for the KSCA secretary's position with his rival being Kasutrirangan.
"We had tremendous respect for him," Patel said. "One of the greatest cricketers Karnataka produced. He almost played for India. He was a guiding force to all of us and would advise us on various issues, including the wickets (pitches) right from the time M Chinnaswamy Stadium [in Bengaluru] was built."
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo