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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 9, Dated Mar 07, 2009

A Beautiful Mind

Indian cricket’s keeper of memories slowly begins to forget. SHANTANU GUHA RAY and BORIA MAZUMDAR look back at the life of Raj Singh Dungarpur

AMONTH AGO, standing on the stairs of the Cricket Club of India (CCI) — actually his home for nearly three decades — Raj Singh Dungarpur asked Dilip Vengsarkar why doesn’t he play for the national selection anymore, especially when he is high on fitness. Vengsarkar didn’t answer. A few who stood nearby asked him to sidestep the question. Those very men and women, who run the offices of the CCI, had ignored a similar mess some weeks ago when the police visited the club. Dungarpur had complained that one of his secretaries misappropriated Rs 1.5 crore from him. Eventually, the issue was resolved through the personal intervention of a Mumbai celebrity, who called up the city’s top cop and asked him to intervene.
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The man who could remember the exact words the legendary CK Nayudu muttered below his breath when he bowled him a bouncer in the 1950s remembers virtually nothing now. And that is causing immense discomfort to friends of the former president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), who had transformed CCI into one of India’s most prestigious clubs. The CCI website — its monthly bulletin, last updated in September, 2004 — says nothing, similar is the response from Bombay Hospital’s physician Sanjay Waghle, who would merely confirm Dungarpur’s discharge on February 20 and that he stayed in room 1264. “His memory is gone, Rajbhai is not well at all,” says a regular at the CCI, hinting at a possible Alzheimer’s taking a quick toll on one of India’s cricket’s most charismatic characters.

Many routinely visit the CCI office and enquire about the man who always had the ability to take charge of a situation. Interestingly, many moons ago, his Daly College, Indore housemaster — who once caned the 12-year-old younger son of Maharawal Lakshman Singhji, the ruler of Dungarpur, for playing cricket in the dormitory — wrote about his favourite cricketer: “He will not be led, he will lead.” Dungarpur actually led the Vikram University cricket team in Ujjain, the town from where he graduated in 1956. Thereafter, he played first class cricket for Rajasthan for 16 years as a fast medium bowler and picked up 182 wickets. In fact, he was at his peak from the late 1950s to the late 1960s. Thrice, he took 21 wickets in a season, his best being 1967-68 when they came at an average of 15.95. His passion for the game’s management was legendary, and his finest moment came when he was the manager to the national side in the 1986 tour of England, when Kapil’s Indians beat the hosts in England, winning both the Test and One-Day series.

THE WEALTHY and influential Dungarpur managed the Indian side four times on overseas tours and had been a national selector for two terms during which he earned both bouquets and brickbats. Many still remember how he got Mohammed Azharuddin the top job by simply asking ‘Mian, Captain Banogey’ and why Mohinder Amarnath included him uppermost in the list when he called cricket selectors a bunch of jokers.

He once told a cricket historian — who was almost kicked out of the CCI for wearing jeans and slippers — that his father was offered Rs 15 lakh sometime in the 1930s by the Maharaja of Patiala, the game’s richest patron in India, to start a cricket club. The Maharaja felt humiliated on seeing the signboard at the Bombay Gymkhana: Dogs and Indians not allowed. CCI was once home to the city’s washermen but the king of Patiala promised to turn it into a heaven. He told Maharawal of Dungarpur: ‘Main yahan chaman banaunga. Iske bad Lords jhopar patti lagega (I will create a heaven here. Compared to this Lords will look like a shantytown).’ The cricket historian, who stayed at his home in Pune, remains bewildered on seeing some of the treasure troves of Indian cricket lying there. Gun and Moore bats autographed by the entire 1983 World Cup winning cricket team lay dumped in one of the store rooms. In fact, one had been chopped for firewood. A huge leather bag had nearly 100 ties, all commemorative ones from Dungarpur’s many cricketing assignments. And there are hundreds of photographs that could well adorn the walls of a museum and as an exhibit on Indian cricket history.

No one knows whether the BCCI will actually plan a museum with the memorabilia. Dungarpur’s dream of seeing another Test match at the venue was shattered after the Mumbai terror attack last year — the Platinum Jubilee Test at the Brabourne became a non-starter. On February 27, about 7,000 CCI members will vote to realise their wish of hosting the DLF-IPL season II matches at the Brabourne Stadium. Franchise owner Reliance Industries is keen that the historical landmark at the Dinshaw Vaccha Road, Churchgate, becomes Mumbai Indians’s home ground.

This one will be minus Dungarpur, the first time in three decades.


From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 9, Dated Mar 07, 2009

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