Rewind: Collecting visiting cards of Ranatunga, Durani, Dickie Bird...

Times have changed. Visiting cards are passe. Scribes these days take pride in embellishing their phone books with mobile numbers of the sportsmen.

Former Sri Lanka skipper Arjuna Ranatunga, India all-rounder Salim Durani and umpire Dickie Bird gladly gave their visiting cards to enable us to stay in touch with them.

Collecting memorabilia has been part of the sports fan club culture. From t-shirts, caps, hats, playing gear, ties to handkerchiefs, socks, shorts, fans would grab anything connected with their heroes. I remember seeing one fan picking up the cigarette stubs thrown by a famous cricketer. The fan was embarrassed when caught in the act but would not part with the 'conquest'.

Over the years, I met fans who would request for signed photographs of star players. They would hand me the autograph books to come and collect at the end of the day’s play or the practice session at venues where they did not have access to the players. In later years, the players would be reluctant to sign miniature bats, caps, hats and t-shirts because some fans had begun to monetize such prized possessions.

During those golden days, when there were no mobile phones, getting through to the players was easy. For they would not mind sharing their residence landline numbers. I know of some players, not wanting to entertain any conversation, who would answer the call and comfortably say, “Saab, ghar par nahin hain (saab is not at home).” It is another matter they would return the call at their convenience. The world was simple and warm.

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Over the years, I stayed in touch with players through well-established avenues – telephone and letters. Yes, some would connect through the mail. In good old times, fans would write to their heroes across the world and receive their responses through the self-addressed envelope. The Bengaluru-based D. N. Raghavendra Rao has a rich collection of autographs collected through writing letters to them.

On the 1996 tour to England, among many, I met two popular personalities connected with the game – former Test opener John Edrich and the legendary umpire, Dickie Bird. Getting their interviews was a priority but in return, obtaining their visiting cards to stay in touch was a huge privilege.

The following year, on the tour to the West Indies, it was a pleasure running into Richie Richardson at Antigua. When requested for an interview, he happily invited us (with photographer V.V. Krishnan), to his sports shop. How to reach his place in days of no google maps? He pulled out his visiting card, which became part of my collection.

Former Sri Lanka skipper Arjuna Ranatunga, Australian opener Ian Redpath, India all-rounder Salim Durani, India skipper K. Srikkanth, ICC Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle, Kenya captain Aasif Karim, gladly gave their visiting cards to enable us to stay in touch with them.

Times have changed. Visiting cards are passe. Scribes these days take pride in embellishing their phone books with mobile numbers of the sportsmen. They don’t mind flaunting them at times. It is another matter that they may hardly get a response from the other end. Most big sportsmen are wary of sharing their contact details. And rightly so. Dubious people try to trap them. I can’t remember a sportsman presenting a visiting card in the last two decades. Times have changed indeed. “May I have your mobile please” has replaced the good old “visiting card” request.

 

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