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Memories of Dileep Sardesai
by Gulu Ezekiel
Jul 06, 2007
The recent passing away of Dilip Sardesai brings back memories of the first opportunity I had to watch first-class cricket 35 years ago, in January 1972.

Living in the backwoods of Durgapur (an industrial town about three hours drive from Calcutta), Test or even first-class cricket was just a dream. My first day of Test cricket would be after we moved to Calcutta in 1974.

But on one of our family visits to Bombay, my uncle arranged for a colleague to take us to the Brabourne Stadium. The colleague obtained passes for my brother and I to the CCI members’ children’s enclosure for the first day of the Ranji Trophy match between Bombay and Maharashtra.

It had been a heady time for Indian cricket fans in 1971. First came the victory in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and then that magic day at the Oval in London when India won a Test match and series in the West Indies and in England for the first time after decades of humiliation.

For a 12-year-old cricket freak and his 14-year-old brother, life could not have been sweeter. Walking through the CCI gates my brother and I felt a surge of excitement as our favourite cricketer walked past us. I still remember how our jaws dropped and our eyes popped. It was Sunil Gavaskar (at the time representing the World XI in Australia) who had us in awe with his record-breaking feats in his debut series in the West Indies. Ajit Wadekar, BS Chandrasekhar, Eknath Solkar, Farokh Engineer…the names and their deeds had become part and parcel our lives. But for both my brother and I, it was Bombay’s veteran middle-order batsman Dilip Sardesai who was our first cricket hero. And we felt cut-up that he had not received his due recognition after setting the stage for the series with a magnificent double century in the first Test at Kingston, Jamaica.

We found ourselves in exalted company among the excited youngsters in the stands. Sitting with us was Dilip’s little son Rajdeep, now one of India’s leading TV journalists. He was surprised when we recognized him. It was because as we explained he had appeared with his family in a photo-feature in our beloved magazine, Sportsweek in a series entitled ‘At Home with Our Heroes’. More than 20 years later I was to work first with his equally illustrious wife Sagarika and then with Rajdeep himself. Of course he had no recollection of that particular match. It must have been a routine day for him at the Brabourne stadium, scene of so many of his father’s triumphs.

Thanks to Rajdeep, the very first cricketer’s autograph my brother and I obtained was his father’s. At the lunch break he had come across to speak to his son and berate him for not eating the packed lunch his mother had prepared for him! I have clear memories of Rajdeep looking sheepish as he was being scolded in the presence of his friends. He did however ask his father to sign for us. My brother clambered up the fence, dropped the books and pen into his hands and caught them as they were tossed back up.

There were a host of international players present on the field that day—Wadekar, Solkar, Chandu Borde. But frankly for my brother and I the rest of the day went by in a blur. That close encounter with our hero was enough to make our friends back home in Durgapur go green with envy!

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