Dashing yesteryear wicket-keeper batter K.R. Rajagopal passed away in Bengaluru on Friday after battling kidney problems. He was 82.
An opening batter who could tear into an attack with strokes of daredevilry, Rajagopal’s first-class career stretched from 1961 to 1971.
In that period, he figured in 55 matches, scoring 3074 runs with seven hundreds at an average of 34.53. And Rajagopal, smart with his glovework, pouched 51 catches and effected 22 stumpings.
He was a batter ahead of his time and statistics do not do justice to his game-changing attributes.
Oldtimers recall how with his flurry of strokes, enhanced by lovely footwork and balance, he could pierce the gaps of strike over the infield.
In fact, Rajagopal, who batted with the spirit of an adventurer, would have been a big hit in modern-day cricket where the T20 format has firm roots.
Rajagopal represented two states, Madras and Mysore. This also meant he ‘kept wickets brilliantly to Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, V.V. Kumar and S. Venkatraghavan, four of the finest spinners who tested a ‘keeper’s skill.
In fact, his fast hands and slick glovework complemented his audacious batting. So popular was Rajagopal that he was a big draw in local matches in Madras, whether at Chepauk or Marina. Crowds flocked to see him in action.
The late N. Sankar, the former head of Chemplast-Sanmar, revealed how highly he rated Rajagopal during a conversation. Sankar added how desperately unlucky Rajagopal was not to represent India.
Rajagopal scored over 800 runs in first-class cricket in 1967 and ‘kept wonderfully well and everyone expected him to make it to the Indian team for the Australia tour that season.
But shockingly he was declared medically unfit and told he was suffering from a heart ailment which effectively ruled him out of selection.
The irony was Rajagopal was playing cricket without a problem and continued to do so after the medical report was released.
Now he has left us. But then, the charm, the romance and the joy of his cricket still swirl around the cricketing arenas here.
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