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Dilip Kumar gets into a flashback mode

Actor Dilip Kumar gets into a flashback mode with Sushama Shelly about his obsession for cricketin his heyday.
By Sushama Shelly | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON FEB 13, 2008 12:11 PM IST

A white pair of trousers have been his preferred mode of attire. He would often take off to the maidan, in his heyday, for a full-on gymkhana match or play in between shots with his peers on the grass patches flanking the studios.

At the age of 85, his enthusiasm for cricket hasn't dimmed. Proof: this flashback to the days of the sport that were. In the very words of Dilip Kumar.. as told to Sushama Shelly.

To hark back to my teenage days, I was in college then. The radio was the prime access to the matches being played by the Indian team. M F Talyarkhan was our favourite cricket commentator.

His commentary used to be scalpel-sharp, his language beautiful. Quadrangular finals used to be played between the colleges. At these campus matches, someone or the other would try to emulate Talyarkhan's style of commentary.

Major C K Naidu captained the Navmal team .. he had migrated to India from Karachi. Navle used to open the innings and score at least 50– 60 runs. Stalwarts like Lala Amarnath, L P Jay, Vijay Merchant, C K Naidu and Lal Singh formed the batting line-up, in that order.

Actually, if I applied my mind and reconstructed my memories, I am sure I could remember the batting line-up right down to the last batsman. Vazir Ali captained the rival team. Mushtaq Ali and S M Kadri were this team's opening batsmen.

One of the team's strengths, Nazar Ali, was an all-rounder, a medium pace bowler. He was the younger brother of Vazir Ali who batted at number four. Dilwar Hussain, the wicket keeper, came in next.

This may sound as if I am bragging but I would like to relate a particular incident. This was around 1950-'52 when I was shooting for Aan.

Glory days
I bowled on the nets of Yashwant Club in Indore – the same place where C K Naidu and other test players used to play for the Ranji Trophy.

I even took a few valuable wickets. Naidu was so impressed with my bowling that he made me an offer to join the team. In those days, such an offer meant a lot.

But I excused myself since I was already well established as an actor. Anyway, a while later, when it was my turn to bat, I was nervous.

Naidu made me stand before the stumps, with the bat. A fast bowler came in like a hurricane. I did take the ball on my bat but… well the ball as well as my bat flew in the air!

I was a medium pace bowler with a short run but couldn't really bat well. In those days, there were fast bowlers like Mohammed Nisaar and Amar Singh, amongst the finest in the world.

Later, Vijay Merchant took over as the skipper. There was also Vijay Hazare, who as the captain, had scored a double century with his younger brother S K Hazare holding on at the other end.

There were colourful players like Khandu Ranganekar, Kishen Chand, S R Godambe… and Churi, the 10th batsman, who also had a double century to his credit. Just goes to show what a strong batting line-up we had.

Now we have good batsmen, but we need a Mohammed Nissar and an Amar Singh. We have had master players like Sunil Gavaskar and spinners like Erapalli Prasanna, Bishen Singh Bedi and Chandra Shekhar who won matches for us.

Our team is still very competent these days, they play too much cricket. This excessive playing is detrimental to their overall performance. We have to bear that in mind if we want to improve our game.

Cricket has become a game of power and pelf. Disturbingly there is too much media hype. In fact, the players must surely feel intimidated by the images created by the media.

Despite this some players have risen above the hype. Sachin Tendulkar continues to be my all-time favourite. He is one of the finest sportsmen in the world!

Not an easy ride
Today most cricketers are minting money by modelling. But then, I tell myself, "What's wrong with that? If a girl can shake her backside and mint money, why can't our players?"

Be that as it may, I am very happy that people are totally taken up with sports these days. This deviates their mind from destructive incidents like communal face-offs.

Alas, our political scenario is in a sorry state. I would not agree with the notion that politics is the last refuge of scoundrees. I feel politics is as good a vocation as any but it must be performed with a certain sense of idealism and motivated towards national welfare.

Whatever one takes up, one should do with unalloyed conviction. I took up acting as my vocation and I worked with total commitment and devotion. Politics could never have been my forte.

Cause and effect
Actors, like all, need recreation. Film stars would play cricket.. and that too quite seriously. We used to have a Dilip Kumar team and a Raj Kapoor team. We used to play matches amongst ourselves and at times with South Indian or Bengali film artistes.

As it happened, the Bombay team would invariably win the match. We never played in the public domain just for the heck of it. It was always for a cause like raising funds for wounded soldiers, war widows, flood victims or for the establishment of hospitals.

Incidentally, the Bombay film team would have female stars too. But only Nargis and Begum Para knew how to play well - they could bat and bowl too. As for the rest, well they were embellishments.

Personally, I have always been obsessed by sport. At cricket, I was just okay but I was a good soccer player. Soccer was my passion. I had played for the Nadkarni Club.

I was 16 or 17 when I was at Wilson College and then at Khalsa College. I was in the junior team of the Bombay Muslim Team. We would do very well. I was interested in hockey too when India was the world champion.

Those were the days
I was a tremendous fan of the middle-weight boxing champion Sugar Ray Robinson. He was a superb stylist who knocked the daylights of his opponents. He would take his barber along wherever he went for his match bout.

During the World War II years, there were no inter-country matches between India and England. The MCC did not visit India during the war. The quadrangular matches later become pentangular.

I remember Frank Tarrant was the captain and the opening batsman of Bombay Gymkhana for Europeans. I guess as they say, those indeed were the days.

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