He was never tired of cricket

Hanumant Singh... a shrewd cricketing brain.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

"I would rate Hanu a great umpire of the mind, a stickler for the minute technical detail merged with the psychology which the modern game demanded, all learnt from personal experience," writes Bishan Bedi in his tribute to Hanumant Singh.

First it was good old Polly kaka, and now `Chotu' Hanumant Singh. Both fine gentlemen of Indian cricket left us in quick succession, creating a big vaccum in Indian cricket scene, which is a lot poorer than what is being depicted by our team's performance in South Africa. Polly Umrigar was a senior statesman but Hanumant was just about the same wave length of understanding and learning cricket performance like yours truly. And how much of it was attributed through the success of his cricket knowledge we so richly deserved.

I would rate Hanu a great umpire of the mind, a stickler for the minute technical detail merged with the psychology which the modern game demanded, all learnt from personal experience.

We had many cricket thoughts in common. For a start of `playing cricket the Indian way'. `Chotu' had piles of stories about the greatness of the three Vijays — Merchant, Hazare and Manjrekar, followed by the dare devilry of Col. C. K. Nayudu and the magic spin twins, Vinoo Mankad and Subhash Gupte.

I never got to see all these great Indian stalwarts in action. But I saw them all via the acute eyesight and the brainwave of my pal Hanumant Singh. I can never be grateful enough to the cricket education that `Chotu' gave me on our only overseas tour together in 1967 to England, whence, at Leeds, Hanumant scored a flawless 90 and then mysterious circumstances took over adamantly to prove that `Chotu' was ever unfit. Something I could never figure out.

Seldom did I hear Hanu mourn about it all. But to the credit of the highly pedigreed prince from Banswara, he never washed his dirty linen in public. Our life is so often governed by our habit patterns. Layer upon layer you establish your identity by what you observe, absorb, imitate and learn. Seemingly, insignificant repetitions, innocent cobwebs of watching and believing turn into pattern. Hanumant's pattern of life from early on was fairly laidback and he loved the comfort zone far too easily. That was one of the reasons why `Chotu' could not resist good food, much to the detriment of his own physique.

He was never tired of cricket but took up golf as another love affair not to be pursued seriously though. `Chotu's' cricket brain was simply astonishing. Having worked with him in close quarters at the National Cricket Academy and then again at our annual coaching camps, Hanu would give it all to the kids.

His theory classes were simply mind-boggling. Yet when I hear some Indians remarking: "We don't have good home-grown coaches" my entire system revolts. A day before the Champions Trophy final in Mumbai Hanu arrived from his coaching stint in Jaipur and immediately informed me of having lunch together the next day at the Cricket Club of India. That day never arrived.

Sadly for me, for I had many cricketing matters unfinished within me and only `Chotu' could have come to my aid as was his wont. But as we got to know time never stops to rest, life's raw material spends itself now, this very moment, which is why positions change, possessions come and go but like good health the other most precious resource to me once gone is forever.

You can't erase a `single word', can't add `I love you', or `I am sorry' or `I forgive you'. Not even `thank you'. In death all these things get lost. In `Chotu' I have lost a very dear friend. I can't imagine the vaccum being filled.