In memoriam: Remembering sports persons who passed away in 2020
Kobe Bryant (died January 26, age 41): On a foggy Sunday morning in California, the Los Angeles Lakers icon died in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others. The “Black Mamba” played 20 years for Lakers, was a five-time NBA champion, twice Olympic gold medallist and an Academy Award winner in 2018 for “Dear Basketball.”
Diego Maradona (died November 25, age 60): A measure of his impact could be gauged by Kerala announcing two days’ state mourning on his passing. That was only one day less than Argentina whom he led to the 1986 World Cup title, scoring the ‘Hand Of God’ goal, one voted ‘Goal Of The Century’, and the final in 1990. At Naples, where he added lustre to Napoli taking them to two Italian league titles and the 1989 UEFA Cup, they named the stadium after him.
Paolo Rossi (died December 9, age 64): Three games of the 1982 World Cup took him from damnation to salvation. With the taint of match-fixing “Pablito” went to the World Cup and emerged highest scorer, best player and World Cup winner. His hattrick eliminated a flamboyant Brazil, his double knocked out Poland in the semi-final and his goal in the final put Italy on their way to a first World Cup since 1938. Scored over 100 goals in Serie A and won the 1985 European Cup with Juventus.
PK Banerjee (died March 20, age 83): For almost 50 years, he was connected to football. As a player, the robust outside-right played two Olympics, leading India at the 1960 Games, and three Asian Games. He scored the first goal in the 1962 Asian Games final where India beat South Korea. Along with Chuni Goswami and Tulsidas Balaram, he formed a formidable trio which scored 20 of India’s 36 goals between 1958 and 1962. He transitioned to a successful coach, helping India win the 1970 Asian Games bronze and Mohun Bagan and East Bengal many domestic titles.
Chuni Goswami (died April 30, age 81): After retiring from football, he captained Bengal to a Ranji Trophy final. Playing as inside-left, he led India to the 1962 Asian Games gold, the runners-up position in the 1964 Asian Cup and was part of the 1960 Olympics team. An artful dodger on the football field with a powerful shot, he played for Mohun Bagan all his life and had traffic-stopping popularity. Jarnail Singh, his teammate for club and country, said he was an artist.
Chetan Chauhan (died August 16, age 73): He was the other half of an enduring opening partnership that featured Sunil Gavaskar and lasted 40 Tests for India. They raised 11 century stands, 10 as openers. Madan Lal, his teammate for Delhi and India, said as a batsman -- and in life -- he could get “stuck in”. That described the man who began playing for Maharashtra, was dropped after three Tests but gritted through a comeback and an international career that spanned three decades. He was also an MP and a minister in the current UP government.
Balbir Singh Senior (died May 25, age 97): Player, manager or coach, India never missed the podium when he was involved. India’s only World Cup in hockey came in 1975 when he was manager; in 1971 India won bronze with him as coach. As centre-forward, he scored six goals in 1948 Olympics and five in the final --- a record --- in the 1952 edition. In 1956, he was the captain and helped India to a hattrick of Olympic gold medals. Invited as a living legend to the 2012 Olympics, he usually refused to talk about how good he was, saying hockey was a team game and he would be nothing without his mates.
Bapu Nadkarni (died January 17, age 87): A 13-year career spanning 41 Tests and 88 wickets doesn’t quite tell the story of his prowess as a left arm spinner. He played a part in India’s first overseas series win, against New in 1967-68 but it was batsmen’s inability to score off him that made him stand out. Since six-ball overs in Tests, his feat of 21 successive maidens --- and conceding five runs in 32 overs --- against England in 1964 has stayed as a record. Against Pakistan earlier, 24 of his 32 overs were maidens. Another time in the same series. 24 of 34 overs were maidens. He scored a Test century too, against England.
Everton Weekes (died July 1, age 95): Of the Three Ws --- Frank Worrell and Clyde Walcott being the other two --- he lived the longest, was the most successful batsman and was rated the best by Richie Benaud and Keith Miller. The India tour of 1948 had him scoring five successive hundreds --- no one has done that --- and being out on 90 in the sixth innings. He averaged over 100 and scored seven of his 15 hundreds against India. “He was tremendous hitter of the ball,” Worrell had said of the man who played bridge and was named after a football club in Liverpool.
Dean Jones (died September 24, age 59): Cricket fans of a certain age will remember him for the dogged 210 in the tied Test against India in 1986 --- the greatest innings by an Australian batsman, said Bobby Simpson --- his aggressive style of batting in ODIs, his fielding and how along with Allan Border he helped revive Australia. Fans of a later generation will remember him as a pundit and a coach who helped Islamabad United to two Pakistan Super League titles. He was part of the IPL commentary team in Mumbai when he died after a heart attack.
Jack Charlton (died July 10, age 85): “Big Jack” died seven days before Leeds United, his club for 23 years, returned to the Premier League after 16 years. A late bloomer for England, the centre-back and Bobby Charlton’s older brother was an important player in the 1966 World Cup where he formed a good partnership with Booby Moore. He also played in the 1970 World Cup and coached Republic of Ireland to the 1988 Euro, 1990 and 1994 World Cups.
Michael Kindo (died December 31, age 73): Known for his sure tackles, the defender was part of the 1975 World Cup winning squad and the one that won bronze in the 1972 Olympics. He also played in the 1971 and 1973 World Cup and the Asian Games in 1974. The first Adivasis to play hockey for independent India, he inspired the likes of Sylvanus Dungdung, Vimal Lakra and even Dilip Tirkey.
Remembering them too: Gerard Houllier (died December 14, age 73); Carlton Chapman (died October 12, age 49); Papa Bouba Diop (died November 20; age 42); Nobby Stiles (died October 30; age 78); Robert Ryland (died August 2, age 100); Rafer Johnson (died December 2; age 86); Ramesh Tikaram (died July 16, age 51); Ashley Cooper (died May 22; age 83), John Edrich (died December 23, age 83), Alejandro Sabella (died December 8, age 66), Nikhil Nandy (died December 29, age 88), Anurita Saini (died in December, age 60).