Reverence for the craft, a wonderful quality

Great teachers set the goal only just out of reach: not too far to be daunting, not so close as to be easy.

'Cricket Drona,' a book on Vasoo Paranjpe, is a collection of essays by players from Sunil Gavaskar to Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, with insights from the coach himself. The tributes paint the picture of a man devoted to the game, with a sense of humour and a profound sense of responsibility to the game.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

Salus Nazareth was an opening batsman who made a half-century for South Zone against Ted Dexter’s Englishmen in 1961-62. He was a self-effacing man who, as coach, spoke a terrific game of cricket, demonstrating the crafts without fanfare when he was coach at my school.

It wasn’t until much later that some of us realised he had been a first-class cricketer of substance. He was strict, and I think many of us were a bit scared of him, although he never shouted at anyone.

Soon, a few of us graduated to one of Karnataka State Cricket Association’s coaching schemes, and here we came under Keki Tarapore, already a legend as coach and commentator. It wasn’t just cricket that mattered with him. The term ‘life coach’ wasn’t yet in use then, but he taught us that being a good human being was an important step towards being a good player.

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All these thoughts came to me while reading two books dedicated to coaches that have been recently published: Pitching It Straight by Gurcharan Singh, the legendary coach and talent-spotter from Delhi whom nearly a hundred first-class cricketers (and a dozen Test players) would acknowledge as their guru. “He moulded my character ever since I joined him as a nine-year old trainee,” writes Kirti Azad, adding “his life lessons to me were woven in cricketing language.”

Gurcharan Singh says (the book is written with journalist M. S. Unnikrishnan): “I was the first qualified cricket coach to be appointed national coach by the BCCI which improved not only my financial position, but also my status in the cricket fraternity.” Gurcharan, who played first-class cricket for 17 years has been involved in cricket as player and coach for over six decades, which is amazing.

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Cricket Drona, on Mumbai’s celebrated Vasoo Paranjpe (I knew him when he spelt it ‘Vasu’!) is a collection of essays by players from Sunil Gavaskar to Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, with insights from the coach himself. It’s written by his son Jatin (who played four ODIs) with help from journalist Anand Vasu. The tributes paint the picture of a man devoted to the game, with a sense of humour and a profound sense of responsibility to the game.

When I first met Vasu Paranjpe, we spoke about Irving Rosenwater. I was in my 20s, recently a cricket writer, and Paranjpe was thrilled that I possessed Rosenwater’s biography of Don Bradman. “The greatest biography of the greatest cricketer,” he kept saying. Paranjpe belonged to the Tarapore school — articulate, friendly, obsessed with the game and willing to do anything for a talented youngster.

I liked what Ed Smith, former England batsman and national selector, says about him in the book: “When he demonstrated shots, I sensed in him a reverence for skill, craft and control… great teachers set the goal only just out of reach: not too far to be daunting, not so close as to be easy.”

Reverence for the craft is a wonderful quality.