Journalist Sidhanta Patnaik, a keen chronicler of women's cricket, no more

Known by fellow sports journalists as Sid Pat, the 35-year-old was battling cancer.

Sidhanta Patnaik shares a copy of the book, 'The Fire Burns Blue — A History of Women's cricket in India', with former Indian cricketer Rahul Dravid.   -  Photo courtesy: Karunya Keshav

"Would you have the phone number of Dilip Doshi? I remember you had spoken to him during 2017 home season..."

On February 25 this year, I got this message from someone I had admired for long. We always worked in so-called rival organisations and kept an eye on each other's work.

There were hits and misses as journalists, but in case of any help regarding women's or domestic cricket, you knew who to dial — Sidhanta Patnaik, or Sid Pat as many of us called him.

So, when Sid Pat texted around 11.30pm for Doshi's number, you knew he was onto a story.

A while later, he texted again. "Did you report on today's ODI?"

This was about India's women's team three-match ODI series against England in Mumbai. Sid Pat, being a big backer of women's cricket, would follow every facet from his base in Bengaluru.

His work ethics and love for the game also earned him the trust and respect of cricketers.

A senior woman cricketer once told me, "If you want to know more about us, you should dial Sidhanta."

The players found a friend in Sid Pat.

On the personal front, he was batting on a sticky wicket, with cancer playing hide and seek, but that could not keep him away from the press box.

 Until recently, he would be the first journalist to walk into the media enclosure to cover a domestic match. "I am steady," he would laugh when people asked him about his health.

It was not easy to put everything aside and speak, using an electrolarynx, but that was never an issue for Sid Pat. He would ask questions in press conferences, and travel to dig out stories.

I ran into him and Karunya (Keshav) at the Woodlands Hotel in Chennai early last year. The two were travelling and meeting people for their book, 'The Fire Burns Blue — A History of Women's cricket in India'.

Sid Pat looked tired, but was eager to tell me how women's cricket had found a firm footing. "You need to write about them more," he said.

These are the memories I will always cherish. Having known him for nearly eight years, I remember a few assignments when we reported the same story, but he would have spotted an angle. It would make me wonder, "Hey, even I was there, but this particular point did not strike me."

He carved a niche for himself. Over the last few months, Sid Pat was largely bedridden.

"We will meet soon," he told me when we spoke a few weeks ago. But the battle ended on Friday night. He was 35 years old.

The press box will be lonely without you, my friend.

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