Cricket anecdotes: Sivaramakrishnan's freedom to More's swimming pool jump

Former cricketer Gursharan Singh was a known prankster and also someone who could laugh at himself; he narrates five memorable anecdotes from his playing days.

From left: Arun Bedi, coach Jasbir Singh, Bishen Singh Bedi, Gursharan Singh, Bharti Vij and Bhupinder Singh Senior at a practice session on the eve of the Ranji Trophy final in Ludhiana in 1993.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Humour has been an essential part of sport. Funny anecdotes and incidents liven up sporting contests and help ease pressure on the players. Cricket is replete with characters who brought laughter to the playing field to add to its friendly culture.

Gursharan Singh, former India batsman and captain of the Punjab team when it won its only Ranji Trophy title thus far in 1993, was a known prankster and also someone who could laugh at himself. Sometimes, as he points out in one incident, indulging in a bit of gamesmanship is accepted as part of the game.

Here, Gursharan narrates five memorable anecdotes from his playing days.

BAIL TO THE RESCUE: This relates to the Ranji Trophy final at the Ferozeshah Kotla in March 1982 when the match went into the sixth day because the first innings had to be completed. Karnataka had amassed 705 and it was obviously a gigantic task for us. For me it was a matter of life and death. In the preceding five innings  I had not scored a fifty and in fact I had collected a 'pair' against Tamil Nadu in the semifinal where L. Sivaramakrishnan made his first-class debut. I was asked to bat at No 3 because Surinder Amarnath was indisposed. Here too, I walked in early when Surender Khanna complained of a stomach pain. Even before I had scored, I played over a ball from (B) Vijayakrishna, it kissed the leg stump and to my horror I saw the bail rise and to my delight it settled back. My God, this was unbelievable. Kiri bhai (Syed Kirmani) was the wicketkeeper and he shouted “ What is this black magic!” Well, I just smiled, thanked the Almighty, scored 101 and we went on to win that epic match. My career might have been over that day had the bail not returned to its base. It is so vivid.

RELATED| Sportstar archives: Test cricket not for cowards, says Javed Miandad

OUT WHEN NOT OUT: Another one that has stayed with me over all these years is from the 1992-93 season. Match was at the Palam ground, a quaint venue very close to the old airport. We could see aircrafts take off and land the entire day and it was fun to keep a count. This incident was really funny. I played back to the bowler and there was a loud appeal from the close-in fielders, especially the wicketkeeper. Strangely the umpire was prompt in ruling me out leg-before. I stood my ground in utter disbelief. From the pavilion, I could hear (coach) Bishan Singh Bedi paaji angrily asking me to come out. I did. On reaching the dressing room, Bedi paaji scolded me, “You have no right to contest the umpire’s decision. Were you not struck on the pads when playing back you were plumb.” It had struck the wicketkeeper’s pads. You should have seen Bedi paaji and the team unable to stop laughing late into the evening.

RELATED| Time Travel: A Ranji Trophy final, a Viswanath double ton and a flat tyre

INDEPENDENCE DAY: The 1983 tour to the West Indies was a phenomenal experience for me. Watching greats like Sunil Gavaskar, Mohinder Amarnath, Kapil Dev and Dilip Vengsarkar was a lifetime education in batting. I shared room with Balvinder Sandhu and had a wonderful time. My friend LS (Sivaramakrishnan) was not so lucky. He was clubbed with a senior cricketer who was a stickler for discipline. It was a long tour and there was some great news towards the end when we learnt that Sunny bhai (Gavaskar) has organised a couple of matches for us in United States. We were put up with some Indian families and my partners were More, LS and Manni (Maninder Singh). As we stepped out of the taxi, LS expressed his feelings in the loudest manner you could imagine. “Happy Independence Day!” he announced. LS was celebrating his freedom from two months of shackles but we still laugh at his impromptu act of declaring his 'independence.'

Balvinder Singh Sandhu and Gursharan Singh (right) share a meal in the tour of West Indies in 1983.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

RELATED| The journey of cricket from Sachin Tendulkar to Virat Kohli

CREATING A WINNING SURFACE: We were playing a Ranji Trophy match against Himachal Pradesh and obviously were desperate to win. Points earned from matches against HP and Jammu and Kashmir counted a lot in the ultimate race to quality from the zone. There was this batsman called Rajeev Nayyar, a most obdurate batsman you could imagine. Believe me you could have got Geoff Boycott but not Nayyar. He was a rock. We were running out of time and something had to be done. This umpire at one end had this habit of looking straight. He would not see the bowler’s foot landing and was known to miss no-balls. What we did was asked a bowler to deliberately overstep since the umpire would not look at the foot. He would overstep and aggressively create marks in the rough. It went on for two overs with the umpire not once looking for a no-ball overstepping. The marks that were created helped (left-arm spinner) Bharti Vij clean up the opposition. We gained full marks from the victory but I did regret doing what we did that afternoon.

RELATED| The romance of cricket as seen by Bishan Singh Bedi

A TIMELY DODGE: One more from the 1983 tour to the West Indies. This was Barbados and I was near the swimming pool in our hotel. I was scared of water and could not swim to save my life. I just stood contemplating whether to stand in the shallow end to get a 'feel’ of it. I don’t know how long I was in that state of indecisiveness when I had this intuition of an impending threat from behind. I heard footsteps which gathered speed as they neared. In a flash, from the corner of my eye, I saw Kiran More charging at me with a 'well-conceived’ ploy to push me into the pool. I neatly side-stepped out of his path as I would from a harmful line of a rising delivery. More presented a beautiful sight as he launched himself into the pool with his walk-man in place. The music was not at all sweet to his ears but I sang my way back to the room with More yelling at me to “buy” him a new walk-man. I did. But that was for me. I still have it.

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :