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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019

Jaitleyji played with a straight bat, was pure class | Opinion

To the IPL, he was a huge support, deftly navigating it in the initial period, getting permissions and approvals. Delhi is not the easiest place to work in but, to the franchise, Mr Jaitley was a friend, an ally, a protector and an unfailing insurance cover.

cricket Updated: Aug 25, 2019 16:28 IST
Amrit Mathur
Amrit Mathur
File image of Arun Jaitley
File image of Arun Jaitley(PTI)
         

In the initial years of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the phone would ring early in the morning, with Mr Arun Jaitley, president of the DDCA, on the line. These were routine calls—he just wanted to check if everything was fine.

That gesture, him calling instead of me, was so typical of the generous and large-hearted person that was Mr Jaitley. Everything—protocol/position/seniority—demanded I (the Chief Operating Officer of Delhi Daredevils) report to him but he was not bound by these things. He never let anybody know he was Arun Jaitley—a man of immense stature and enormous power.

Cricket was dear to him, he could recall dates, players, their performances from the past that would astonish even a statistician. No less was his interest in the progress of Delhi’s young cricketers. It wasn’t unusual for Mr Jaitley to call Delhi selectors and coaches to check on the progress of under-16, under-19 players they had not heard of!

ALSO READ: Kohli & Co wear black armbands in Antigua Test to condole Jaitley’s demise

In the 30 odd years I knew and worked him in cricket, Mr Jaitley’s love for the game always came through. Our conversations invariably and inevitably centered on cricket. He could access facts quicker than google, precise to the smallest detail, extracting stats from his formidable memory with the effortless ease of a top lawyer. His recall was extraordinary, sometimes scary, as he could refer to a chance remark made years ago as if uttered just the day before.

To the IPL, he was a huge support, deftly navigating it in the initial period, getting permissions and approvals. Delhi is not the easiest place to work in but, to the franchise, Mr Jaitley was a friend, an ally, a protector and an unfailing insurance cover. Each time there was an hiccup, a minor disagreement or dispute, all you had to do was to ask for help .To us he was the Supreme Court that resolved issues on merit, with complete fairness.

Mr Jaitley took keen interest in the commercial results and the team’s on-field performance. When Delhi recruited a young Andre Russell (unknown at that time even to some in the franchise support staff) he surprised us by commending the selection of the impactful all-rounder.

ALSO READ: ‘A part of me is gone’: Cricketers mourn Arun Jaitley’s death

Interestingly, for someone who was a allrounder in public life, a genuine multi-tasker like nobody else, he was never in a hurry. Often when I’d take a problem to him, the meeting would end in a few minutes but he would insist on a cup of tea, and talk shop. This when 20 others were waiting in the adjoining room, hoping for few minutes of his time!

In cricket, at the BCCI, he was the ultimate go to person, such was his personal charm and universal appeal. Whatever the issue, regardless of the persons involved, Mr Jaitley would be objective. In the fragmented unruly dynamics of the BCCI, he was an adviser, a problem solver, a consensus builder. There can be no better example of a brilliant individual selflessly playing for the team.

Much has been said about his taste for food, and many know of his fondness for films, his admiration for Sahir Ludhianvi and Dev Anand, his preference for limited edition fountain pens.

Mr Jaitley was a man of many parts but in all his roles, one quality stood out. He always, always played straight, hitting across the line was never an option. His was a bat that had a big middle and no edges.

Cricket is about scoring runs but equally important is the manner of making those runs. If the same yardstick is used to judge people, the verdict can only be unanimous: Jaitley ji was pure class!

(Amrit Mathur worked with Jaitley in the BCCI, later in the IPL)