In a first at the Ferozeshah Kotla, cricketers were accorded their rightful stature when Bishan Singh Bedi, Mohinder Amarnath and Anjum Chopra were bestowed with rare honour by the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).
At a start-studded event, organised under the stewardship of Justice (Retd) Vikramajit Sen, former Test stars Bedi and Amarnath unveiled two stands named after them while Anjum inaugurated the gate bearing her legend. “It’s a recognition for women’s cricket. I have always believed that sports is gender neutral. So, it is a huge honour for me today,” Anjum said.
The evening, with cricketers at the centre stage, was part of High Court appointed Justice Sen’s process to give a fillip to the image of DDCA, which has been mired in countless controversies.
Restoring past glory
The event was set in motion by inauguration of the Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi Hall of Fame. Pataudi’s wife Sharmila Tagore opened the Hall of Fame which has a section on one of India’s finest captains apart from portraits of players from Delhi who represented India in Tests. “Our effort has been to restore the past glory of Delhi cricket. The focus of my team is on best talent available. I can assure you there are no favour or partiality involved,” Justice Sen said.
“Mr Bedi gave good idea of reviving inter-college tournaments. We will be working towards that. Also, we will try to have inter-school competitions.”
Among the highlights of the evening, compered by veteran cricket commentators Ravi Chaturvedi and Dr. Narottam Puri, was felicitation of Delhi’s Ranji Trophy captains with veteran Prakash Bhandari being the oldest to receive the citation and the commemorative cap in person.
Among the veteran captains who attended the function were Dehradun-based Rajendra Pal, Surinder Amarnath, who now resides in Ahmedabad, Vinay Lamba, Rakesh Shukla, Venkat Sundaram, Chetan Chauhan, Madan Lal, Surender Khanna, K. P. Bhaskar, Kirti Azad, Ajay Sharma and Manoj Prabhakar.
Kohli ‘coming a long way’
The DDCA also honoured current India captain Virat Kohli on his recent feat of hitting 50th international century. “It has been an honour to receive this from Bedi sir. Running from him during Under-14, Under-15, Under-16 time - for he made us train too much - to be able to do that now and making it a part of life, it is coming a long way,” said Kohli.
“It is an honour to see all the big names and standing with them. As youngsters we used to look up to the seniors and hoped to be like them. To be an Indian captain is an honour and dream come true for me. I hope it will inspire kids to take Test cricket.”
For Mohinder, who had the east stand named after him, it was an emotional return to the venue where he inspired Delhi’s epic win over Karnataka in the 1982 Ranji final. His 185 saw Delhi overhaul Karnataka’s first innings score of 705. Mohinder figured in two more Ranji title wins at the Kotla (191 in 1980) and (194 in 1986) apart from 178 in 1979 at Bangalore.
“I came to play for Delhi because of Bishan. We used to played for Punjab. At that time Delhi didn't have team like Mumbai. Bishan wanted a team like that, one which would help north cricket. He convinced my father to allow Surinder and I to play for Delhi. So Bishan started the trend and everyone had a lot of respect. He was the captain for the team.”
Bedi, who delivered the inaugural DDCA Lecture, is credited with shaping the character of Delhi cricket when he led the team to Ranji Trophy title triumphs in 1979 and 1980. Vocal in his criticism of the former regime at the DDCA, Bedi congratulated the current administration for its efforts to restore Delhi cricket’s pride.
“I never thought I will live to see this day. But it happened. I remember writing to Justice Sen that cricket lecture can only emerge from cricket culture. He said that is what we are trying to do. It is no milestone to be named a stand after me but for first time Delhi cricketers are being acknowledged, and it is wonderful,” he said.
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