Remembering cricket and Chandu Borde

Posted: July 23, 2009 in Indian cricket
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Attending former cricket selection committee chief, Chandu Borde’s felicitation on Tuesday, at the Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir and the dinner after that at Hotel Blue Diamond brought back some lovely memories – my first taste of this beautiful game called cricket, seeing some of the cricketing greats at the strangest of places, and then as a sports journalist covering cricket for over 16 years, going for international matches and tournaments like the World Cup.

Chandu Borde, for all those too young to remember, was India’s ‘Mr. Dependable’ – he could bat, bowl and field – and there weren’t too many of them around. My friend babu kalyanpur, (that’s how he likes to write his name), now with Gulf Daily News, and easily one of the most knowledgeable cricket writers around, once told me that Borde is one of the unsung heroes of Indian cricket, who never got his due.

He should have been captain, but the powers-that-be believed that captaincy was the preserve of those who were good with their interpersonal skills not just their cricket. The feeling then was that only Oxford or Cambridge educated nobility could make good captains – or if you were from Shivaji Park or Dadar Gymkhana. Thank God that colonial mentality has changed, or Kapil Dev would never have become captain and we might never have won the Prudential Cup in 1983!

As Ajit Wadekar spoke about Borde at the function, all those memories of my cricket madness came flooding back. I remember huddling over a Murphy Radio in 1969 listening to Raju Bharatan and Pearson Surita referring to Redpath, Chappell, Walters, Stackpole (it sounded like Tadpole), Gleason, Mckenzie. What were they — some form of exotic food or people? I learned that these were cricket players from Australia. I remember meeting former Australian opener Keith Stackpole in Pune during the 1996 World Cup and telling him that it was his name that got me hooked to cricket. He laughed uproariously.

When ‘Shandra’ (what one of India’s greatest spinners, B.S. Chandrashekhar, was referred to as over the Beeb by famed commentator John Arlott) spun his web around England at The Oval in England, a lot of us were at home, ears straining to catch the commentary over Short Wave, waiting for that magical moment. We roared in delight when Eknath Solkar (will there be another fielder like him?) plucked the ball just before it dropped to the ground, a few feet from England wicket-keeper Alan Knott’s bat. I think we knew then that India was within smelling distance of history. I think a lot of us cried that day – it was that kind of a feeling. Totally indescribable.

Then Ajit Wadekar and his boys reached Bombay and I read about the welcome at the airport and revelled in the feeling – like I was there, like I was a part of it. So when in December 1971 in Delhi when my mother asked me if I wanted to watch a cricket match on TV at her friend’s place, I jumped at it! I had never seen a TV in my life before leave alone a cricket match. I watched the India-England Test match being played at the Feroz Shah Kotla, on a black and white TV set. It was an amazing experience. We lost the Test and I was shattered. How could these champions lose to a second string England team?

Cricket soon became an obsession. I was compiling notebooks and albums of cricket pictures and statistics. I would follow cricket matches over the radio ball by ball, copiously writing down scores and records, calculating averages. I remember my mother telling someone that I could calculate Sunil Gavaskar’s batting average to the last decimal, but ask me to do multiplication and I was lost!

I remember going on a school picnic to Lonavala, and as we were buying chikki at a store a man came up and told us, “If you want to see cricketers come with me.” In excitement we followed him to a luxury bus parked at the side of the road. There was the hero of the Oval Test, Eknath Solkar along with a lot of other Indian players. Imagine seeing these guys up, close, in the flesh!

Cut to the mid-1970s and we were standing at Jangli Maharaj Road opposite Khyber Restaurant, in Pune. We were waiting for all the snazzy sports cars participating in the London-Sydney Rally that were supposed to pass from there. As we waited I looked around and saw this tall man next to me talking to someone on his left. I could barely suppress my excitement. My friends noticed him too and we began whispering loudly – too loudly – because he looked at us and smiled. We couldn’t believe our luck. That was all we needed. Note books and pens came out in a flash and all of us watched in wonder as he signed his name in our books. Our day was made.

Our presence had been acknowledged by none other than Chandu Borde!

  1. Mano says:

    Mohan, you have brought back some beautiful memories when we walked cricket, talked cricket and lived for cricket. Most of us gave it up on our way to other pursuits. You have been true to it and can see that the spirit is still in you and nothing can phase it out.Wonderful..Love this blog .

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