The importance of Vid’s Ranji double

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 09 Feb 2019 14:18:14


By Vidyadhar Date,

I AM thrilled by the Vidarbha team’s repeat victory in the Ranji Trophy final since I am from Nagpur. And more so because I was the neighbour of Shyam Sarvate, veteran sports journalist and grandfather of Aditya Sarvate, the star of the victory.

I was also touched by the photograph of Aditya’s mother Anushree and father Anand, whom I know as Nandu since his childhood. Aditya’s mother is a very brave woman who has nursed Nandu after he met with a serious road accident in Panvel near Mumbai more than 20 years ago. It has left him with a crippling injury. He was riding a bicycle and was knocked down by a truck. I still remember I had rushed to Tilak Hospital in Sion on hearing the news.

As a sports journalist I often accompanied Shyam Sarvate to various sports venues. I also dearly remember G T Parande, former Editor of ‘The Hitavada’ who was a keen sports lover. My interest in cricket was also nurtured by Prof. E G Mane, ex-Ranji player who taught us English literature in the post graduate department of the university in Nagpur.

I have been away from Nagpur for the last 50 years but am emotionally very attached to Nagpur and remember the cricketing days of those times. This victory is also very important because in those days Vidarbha used to be a rather vulnerable team to the pace attack of Raj Singh Dungarpur of Rajasthan in Ranji Trophy matches. Rajasthan then had stars like Vijay Manjrekar, a solid Test cricket batsman, and Hanumant Singh, another sound batsman.

In Nagpur, I not only saw some wonderful matches I had the good fortune as a teen age journalist to chat with the great C K Nayudu who was a legend even then. I particularly remember what he told us about fast bowling. A real fast ball is one which beats the batsman, the wicketkeeper, even the player deep at the boundary, hits a dog beyond and the dog dies.

Indeed Wesley Hall of the West Indies was one such fast bowler. He and Roy Gilchrist made a formidable team of opening pace bowlers in those days. As youngsters we were awe-struck as Hall started his run from almost near the boundary at the VCA ground. He was a huge man above six feet and one can imagine how terrified the batsmen must have been.

We were so fond of cricket and identified with the cricketers so much that when Collie Smith, a West Indian team-mate of Hall, died in a road accident in 1959 in England, I felt uneasy for several days. Going through old records today, I was more saddened to realise that the man at the wheel was none other than the great Garfied Sobers who got away with a small fine. He himself was injured too but recovered well enough.

I began my working life as a cub reporter in ‘Nagpur Times’ at the age of 18 in the early sixties and left Nagpur to join the ‘Times of India’ in 1968. ‘Nagpur Times’, now defunct, had its office in Ramdaspeth, not far from the present ‘Lokmat’ office.

I used to go around several grounds on my bicycle which was the main vehicle at that time, scooters were very few and cars even rarer. I was a struggling young man, studying in college and working at the same time for a living.

The Billimoria pavilion was there in VCA even then but for big matches temporary structures, stands, used to be built all along for the spectators. For radio commentary a machan like structure used to be built high up.

During the few international matches which used to be played then I met some prominent British cricket writers of the time. One of them was Dicky Ratnagur, Bandra-born, who later married my ‘Times of India’ colleague Delshad Karanjia, daughter of the then Filmfare Editor B K Karanjia. Dicky, based in London, covered India widely and wrote about match-fixing way back in 1979 when Pakistan visited India and received threats from bookies.

G K Menon, then in the ‘Indian Express’ used to come to cover matches from Mumbai and he used to speak Marathi so fluently I would not believe he was a Menon.

Later we became good colleagues in the ‘Times of India’. Here also it was my good fortune to be a colleague of K N Prabhu, the Sports Editor, who was quite widely read well beyond sports. I remember avidly listening to the radio commentary in a wayside dhaba on way by bicycle to SFS college on Seminary Hills which had just come up.

In those days SFS, St Francis de Sales, was a rival of Hislop in football and I was accused of favouring SFS in my reports! That is for the lighter side. In cricket there used to be rivalry between the M W Mandpe group and Suresh Sahu group for the control of VCA. Later, Gopal Kelkar, my family friend, became secretary for many years.

Shashank Manohar, then a little boy, lived a little further with his father, the noted lawyer V R Manohar and his father. Dhantoli then was like Shivaji Park area in Mumbai, a breeding ground for cricketers. Also near my house lived Challa, a dashing batsman with a keen sense of humour, and stylish left hander Subhash Date who died young.

In local journalism I used to be beaten in coverage some times by the much more experienced P V Nayudu of ‘The Hitavada’ who was an insider in the sports establishment. P V sadly passed away a few years ago. Among the cricketers then was Sharad Kelkar or Balloo, who later became a brilliant IAS officer, Maharashtra’s industries secretary.

In Nagpur, I also saw Sunil Gavaskar in the inter-university competition play for Bombay University, clean bowled by Nagpur’s fast bowler Anil Kale for about four runs or so.I also recall Prem and Peter Bhelwa of YMCA, the pretty Apte sisters, national badminton champions Sarojini and Sunila. It is a pity so few people remember these famous names of those days. Chandrakant Deoras is still active. But very little information is available of the old days even on the internet. Someone clearly needs to write a good descriptive history of sportsin Vidarbha and other regions 
as well.

Cricket has to be seen in a larger perspective and we need to give greater recognition to other games as well. What do they know of cricket, who only of cricket know, as the famous West Indian Marxist and ardent cricket lover CLR James said. He also wrote about the aesthetics of cricket and I know there is still nothing so thrilling as watching the opening batsmen walking up to the crease in front of a filled stadium and the fast bowler leaping into the air to deliver the first ball. So I am glad and I join in the cheering for Ranji champions Vidarbha.