An evening to remember

Nostalgia was the theme of the BUCC evening. Test players apart, there were those who had made a name for themselves as schoolboys, and played some first class cricket too.

File photo shows Rahul Dravid during a press conference at the Bangalore United Cricket Club in Bengaluru, in December 2018. Dravid recalled how Keke Tarapore’s invitation to join the BUCC changed his life. The former India captain is now the president of the club which is celebrating its centenary.   -  K. Bhagya Prakash

I was a schoolboy when cricket coach Keki Tarapore invited me to attend one of his camps at the Karnataka State Cricket Association. Some of his former pupils dropped in now and then, and either batted or bowled in the nets. Or simply spoke to us. And since these included the likes of Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Syed Kirmani, excitement was always high.

Tarapore understood that too much technique can sometimes ruin a schoolboy’s enjoyment of the game, so he didn’t overstate it. He was articulate, loved the game with an abiding passion and passed on that passion. As a Bangalore United Cricket Club (BUCC) stalwart, he picked me to play for the ‘B’ team.

A later pupil, Rahul Dravid, recalled how Tarapore’s invitation to join the BUCC changed his life. He is the president of the club, which is celebrating its centenary. Tarapore’s son Shavir, international umpire and former Ranji player, is the secretary. Keki Tarapore’s coaching went beyond cricket. Ramachandra Guha put his finger on it when he said he saw “something of Keki” in Dravid, who, as the India A coach has smoothened the path for gifted youngsters into the national team.

Dr. Thimmappiah, former president of the KSCA, was, a stalwart of the BUCC. Old-timers recalled his batting and his one-line introduction: “You know I made the first Ranji century for Karnataka (then known as Mysore).” Generations of Karnataka players had their own reactions to this. Many didn’t believe him. Some of us checked the records, and discovered he was right. The good doctor was a fine raconteur and had many stories he repeated to succeeding generations. It was a coming of age ritual in Karnataka cricket. Another one we remembered was the story of his walking a great distance to watch Jack Hobbs bat at the RSI grounds.

Nostalgia was the theme of the BUCC evening. Test players apart, there were those who had made a name for themselves as schoolboys, and played some first-class cricket, too. Imtiaz Ahmed, Sanjay Desai and Vedam Hariharan toured England with the Indian Schoolboys in the 1970s; Jayashankar Menon, Prakash Rathod and Jagdish played the English at home in the following decade.

“Remember when…” is how many stories began. Veteran coach P. S. Viswanath was there, so too was Doraiswamy who ran the Friends Union Cricket Club whose tie Guha was wearing to emphasise his club allegiance.

Every city has its own club rivalries. In Bengaluru, it was traditionally BUCC v Swastic Union, the club which had the likes of Brijesh Patel. Then there were the banks, State Bank (G. R. Viswanath, Kirmani) v Syndicate Bank (Chandrasekhar, Binny). These were intense competitions. Viswanath recalled how he had sledged a bowler so severely that the player refused to speak to him for weeks.

Perhaps the days of such club rivalries are over. Anil Kumble made the most telling point of the evening: players emerge not so much from clubs these days as from private cricket academies. There is a warning in that.