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One for the Records

At age 62, and with a rotund physique that would slow down anyone, it would be beyond an ordinary individual to rummage through hundreds of books stockpiled in three rooms. BR Srikanth tells more.

india Updated: Oct 10, 2008 22:30 IST
BR Srikanth

At age 62, and with a rotund physique that would slow down anyone, it would be beyond an ordinary individual to rummage through hundreds of books stockpiled in three rooms. Blame it on his passion, but that’s precisely how Hirisave Ramaswamy Gopalakrishna scours for numbers. He then puts together the pieces of information and publishes them for the millions of cricket devotees hungry for numbers they can ascribe to their gods.

It was such a manual search, conducted over a month, that resulted in a seven-page handout for the media on Day One of the ongoing Test between India and Australia being played in Bangalore. It listed the probable milestones ahead. Among other things, it generated a fascinating glimpse of Australian captain Ricky Ponting’s batting talent. Munch this: Ponting not only holds the record for most Test centuries by a skipper (16), but he has also joined ranks with William Maldon Woodful, an Aussie who played Test cricket during 1926-32, in running up 100-plus partnerships for the second wicket after an opening batsman had left with zero on the scoreboard. (Woodful and Ponting have both done it thrice.)

This toil sans hi-tech gadgets that culls out such incredible minutiae pays a pittance. AIR handed him a princely sum of Rs 75 every day of his maiden Test as a scorer — in Bangalore in 1974-75. It was raised to Rs 300 a couple years later, and then to Rs 500 during the 1986-87 World Cup. The last figure has not changed till date.

Opening his innings
Gopal, as he’s known among cricketers, began romancing numbers as a childhood ‘test’ to recall the scores of his schoolmates. Two of them, AV Venkatanarayana and B Raghunath, went on to play Ranji cricket for Mysore in the 60s, while a third, CR Cavale, later became a scorer.

Gopal’s passion for statistics and his gift for remembering details pushed him on to the field of records. Today, three rooms in his south Bangalore abode house stockpiles of the scorecards of every Test played since 1877 and every one-day international played since 1971. Also heaped in these rooms are some rare books on cricket and souvenirs such as an autographed picture of the Indian spin quartet of the 70s, and an autographed scoresheet of the first Test he appeared in.

Gopal put his meagre money where his passion is. “I took a loan of Rs 2,000 from my PF account to pick up a set of Wisden books because of my passion to write descriptively about numbers,” he says.

The singular disappointment of his career? He could not make it as statistician for AIR for the matches played in Pakistan during the 1996 World Cup because the central government turned down his application on grounds of security.

Building partnerships
Over the years, Gopal has developed special bonds with several cricketing legends. He has passed them extraordinary details of their own careers and that of their teams. Talking to Hindustan Times, Test captain Anil Kumble gave a measure of Gopal’s labour: “He comes up with all kinds of fantastic stats. He keeps sending us a lot of it and that’s always useful to the team.”

To Gopal, the most satisfying moments are when players acknowledge his effort. “Bishen [Singh Bedi] walked up to me during the golden jubilee match (India vs England, Mumbai, 1980-81) and asked when I would write the next series of commemorative books. Woolmer called Hansie Cronje over and spoke nostalgically after I gave him a book of his performances,” says Gopal.

He of course owes much to his guru, Anandji Dossa, chairman of BCCI’s Statistical Committee formed in 1975-76. “I revere him so much that I decided to name my second son after Anandji.” However, it’s Gopal who pioneered the simple and useful concept of using colour ballpoint pens on scorecards. “It struck me one hot afternoon that drops of perspiration could blotch the scores, so I started using different colors for a single, twos, threes, and boundaries. Its now common among scorers,” he said.

Today, Gopal’s personal scorecard reads: scorer/statistician in 27 Tests and 31 ODIs.

When one keeps aside the scorecard, a man of striking paradoxes emerges. He wanted to be an electrical engineer, but when he passed out in 1971, he ended up joining Dena Bank as a clerk. “For six years, many of my classmates couldn’t get jobs as electrical engineers. I was lucky... and I never gave up writing about performances and facts and figures,” he says.

On his appointment as the official statistician for BCCItv and IPLT20, cricket writer Rajan Bala said: “He has to evolve beyond figures because most eminent writers would know most of it. He must tell us rare stuff such as whether (keeper-batsman) Budhi Kunderan open the bowling for India.”

Gopal does one better: he adds Sunil Gavaskar, ML Jaisimha (both batsmen), V Subramanya and Ramesh Saxena (spinners) to the list of non-bowlers who opened.