When tragedy struck Lamba

A phone call from Tarak Sinha set off the suspenseful task of enquiring about the well being of Raman Lamba. "I have been told that he was hit by a ball on the field. Please get me the details," said Sinha, who was Lamba's coach at the Sonnet Club and also earlier at PGDAV College.

Lamba, who represented India in four Tests and 32 ODIs, was playing in Dhaka. He had indeed been struck on the forehead when he failed to get out of the way of a shot. It was a lethal blow and when he died, Lamba was only 38 and still backing himself to make a comeback to the national team. His passion for cricket reflected his vibrant and energetic attitude to life.

The news of his death left the cricket community shattered. A toothache had prevented him from accompanying the Delhi team for its Ranji Trophy league match in Chennai against Tamil Nadu. "He left to see the dentist midway through our nets session at Kotla," remembered former Test batsman Ajay Sharma, the captain of the Delhi squad.

Lamba later informed the team management that he would come on his own. But the toothache obviously prevented him from joining the team. "I waited till half an hour before the toss for Raman to join us," recalled Ajay. Lamba never joined the team. Instead, he flew to Dhaka when the tooth pain eased.

Former Test seamer Sanjeev Sharma, Lamba's team-mate at Delhi and Abahani Krira Chakra of Dhaka, noted: "Raman was the most popular professional cricketer in Bangladesh. And easily, the most consistent too because he would win matches on his own." In fact, Sanjeev stood at the boundary with a helmet in hand, but Lamba waved him off because the tea break was just one ball away. Little did he know that death too lurked just one ball away.

Poor medical facilities in Dhaka probably cost Lamba his life. Kim, his Irish wife, now settled in Madeira Island, said, "He would have been saved in any other place but Dhaka. This morning I woke up to the deeply sad news of Phillip (Hughes) passing, and with a severe pain in the pit of my stomach, many memories of the same hours, directly after Raman lost his fight for life, came flooding back to me. I wish to convey our deepest sympathies to Phillip's family and his nearest and dearest and offer our support in prayer at this very traumatic time," said Kim in a message.

Lamba's death had led to many a debate on the quality and importance of protective equipment. The helmet was made compulsory in all grades of tournaments the world over. But then Hughes wore a helmet and yet suffered a fatal blow!

Incidentally, Lamba, a fearless individual, had never fielded at short leg. When he stood in that position for the first time, it became his last time too! Wish he had worn proper protective equipment.

Vijay Lokapally