Former Test cricketer Rajinder Pal passes away

A right-arm medium pacer, Rajinder Pal played his only Test match against England (then known as MCC) during the 1963-64 series at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai.

Ex-cricketer Rajinder Pal passed away at his Dehradun residence. He was 80.   -  Meeta Ahlawat

Rajinder Pal, the man who taught Kapil Dev the art of bringing the ball in, breathed his last in Dehradun on Wednesday. Fondly known in cricket circles as Pali, he was 80.

Known for his uncompromising attitude, which saw him take on the administration (Delhi and District Cricket Association) on numerous occasions, Rajinder Pal played his lone Test against England at Bombay in 1964 apart from 98 first-class matches.

His Test debut did not make news. His fellow debutant was leg-spinner B. S. Chandrasekhar. Pal did not get a wicket while Chandra got five. He made debut for Delhi against Services at Kotla in 1954 and signed off by leading Haryana against Jammu and Kashmir at Kurukshetra in 1973.

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Off-spinner Sarkar Talwar, who registered his career-beat (seven for 42) in that match at Kurukshetra, recalled, “Pali Sir was such a wonderful bowler. He was nippy and commanded respect from the best of the batsmen. He did not fear any opponent and was at his best when handling juniors. He gave us love and guidance, cared for and never allowed us to spend our allowances. He would pick all the bills. I was privileged to have achieved my best under his captaincy. He had to lead the side in that match because (original captain) Ravinder Chadha missed that game.”

Pal may have fallen out with Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi in later years but he told this reporter graciously during an interview, “My selection was at the behest of skipper Tiger (Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi). He backed me and insisted that I play at Bombay (against Mike Smith-led England) in 1964. I will remain grateful to him and (selector) Ghulam Ahmed saab for having faith in me.”

His incoming ball was very special. At the insistence of Talwar, he agreed to teach Kapil, who received the news with sadness. “I can never thank Pali Sir’s contribution in words. Two of my gurus (Pal and Desh Prem Azad) have gone out of my life. Pali Sir taught me in-swing in three weeks. I can never forget him. I was told by old timers that he was one of the finest new-ball bowlers but unfortunately he did not get the kind of exposure he deserved.”

Pal worked to make cricket popular in Dehradun, where he had settled for more than a decade now. He had also worked in vain to earn affiliation for Uttarakhand and kept himself busy with some coaching work. He will be missed.