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Remembering a versatile administrator

Raj Singh Dungarpur's royal pedigree and gift of the gab made him one of the most sought after persons in the Indian cricketing administration, once he had relinquished his First Class career, writes Pradeep Magazine.

india Updated: Sep 13, 2009 01:58 IST

It was not just his broad frame and imposing height that made him stand out in a gathering. He had a booming voice and would never tire of narrating stories of a time gone by. He had an elephantine memory and would narrate a cricketing anecdote at any moment, any time, anywhere to remain always at the centre of a conversation.

His royal pedigree and gift of the gab made him one of the most sought after persons in the Indian cricketing administration, once he had relinquished his First Class career.

Raj Singh Dungarpur, who played for Rajasthan showing reasonable skill as a medium pace bowler from 1955 to 1971, is better known as the man who catapulted a diffident Mohammed Azharuddin into India’s captaincy. It was a move of a selector out to defuse a rebellion in the Indian team by giving the reins of the team to a man who was expected to toe the line. Azharuddin became one of India’s most successful leaders ever and Dungarpur’s line, “Kyun mian kaptan banoge (will you become captain?)”, has now become part of cricketing folklore. It was he who as a selector took the decision to select a 16-year-old boy in the Indian team despite many voices against sending a talented rookie on a demanding tour to Pakistan in 1989. The boy was Sachin Tendulkar.

He wore many hats in the cricketing set-up, from being a selector to becoming the president of the Board. Despite the image of a man who always played straight, he was not immune to changing his stand or loyalties according to the needs of the power structure in the administrative set-up.

He had made Mumbai his home, where he remained president of the Cricket Club of India for 13 years. It is here that he made his mark not just in its cricketing set-up but also in the elite social circles. His closeness to India’s Nightingale Lata Mangeshkar lent his persona an aura which would inspire awe in scribes like us.

Like most men who never tire of speaking, his utterances would many times embroil him in controversies. Once, on India's tour of Lanka, he barged into the dressing room and stunned the players by telling Rahul Dravid to be ready to take over from Sourav Ganguly.

On his last tour as India's manager to Pakistan in 2005, he had many tiffs with coach Greg Chappell on his autocratic style of functioning. It was also a tour where memory was betraying an ageing man, who as a consequence was hardly in control of himself and the situation around him.

The irony of life is such that in the last years of his life, the raconteur of cricketing history had almost lost his memory.

But the stories he told and the man himself will remain an important part of India's cricketing narrative.