I’ve made a comeback to rugby after five years playing at the highest level in the domestic circuit. In fact, I’m the oldest rugby player at the domestic level in India right now.
I studied in the Cathedral and John Connon School where the sport was compulsory. It was a sport that allowed you to be as aggressive and dirty as you wanted to be.
For a 14-year-old full of anger and testosterone, it’s a perfect game. I got attracted to it for all the wrong reasons, but after two years of playing, at 16, I was scouted by Bombay Gymkhana and asked if I wanted to play for the club.
I said yes, but my father was very unhappy because being a Bengali, he didn’t associate sport with the dirt and aggression of rugby. At 17, I began to play for the Gymkhana A team and at 18 I played the all-India championship.
In October 1998, in Singapore, I played India’s first international rugby match. Playing for the Gymkhana, I discovered the poetry, rhythm and flow of the sport. There’s no game like rugby when it comes to the flow...
But all my sporting idols were cricketers. The first Test match I watched was in 1972, where Tony Greig played in India. I was also fortunate to watch one of the greatest Tests in Madras where Gundappa Viswanath made 97 not out.
My idols were Sunil Gavaskar and Viv Richards because they were just astonishing. But once I started playing rugby, I didn't have idols; I had favourite players — I played centre and there was a wonderful French player, Philippe Sella, who also played from the same position; he became one of my favourites. Then there was Australia’s David Campese on the wings who was electric. But once you cross your 20s, you stop having idols.
As told to Ayan Acharya.
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