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Vol. XXXI No.7, July 16-31, 2021

Cricket, the leveller

by Ramnarayan V

Cricket has thrown up so many coincidences and little diversions and alleys making my life so much more rewarding. An example of the twists and turns is this story of an old cricket friend from my college days who ‘reentered’ my life a couple of decades after his death.

Let me start at the beginning. This subplot involves another tragic loss, my cousin Sridhar, P.S. Narayanan (the second of my cousins of that name), who left us recently aged 64. He was visiting me in my third floor flat when he learnt that Rangarajan who had been my teammate at Mylapore Recreation Club circa 1967 and had captained Sridhar in the same team a few years later, lived in the adjacent flat. Sridhar then gifted Ranga a group photograph of the team when it won the 2nd division league title. The photograph has both Ranga and Sridhar in it.

A couple of years later, Devaraj Palani joined my family as our car driver, ferrying my daughter to and from work, and doing the doctor-physiotherapist-drugstore routine for the senior citizens. Devaraj is an interesting person, politically aware, a keen reader of modern Tamil literature and a movie buff who loves to share Vadivelu jokes via mobile phone with us.

Devaraj courted trouble in his youth by marrying a Muslim when he wasn’t even employed, but all’s well now, and they are a happy, upwardly mobile family. His wife Fhamidha Banu is a homemaker with some work experience, his son Vignesh works for Amazon India as an instructional designer and daughter Praveena is studying in the XII standard at Holy Angels Convent. The family, which also includes Devaraj’s mother-in-law, lives together.

All of us, my wife, daughter and I, have interesting conversations with Devaraj, with the topics covering a wide range, including Tamil Nadu, national and world politics, Ponniyin Selvan and Alai Osai, and cricket. While Devarajan has IPL statistics at his fingertips, I try to educate him on the beauty of Test and first class cricket as well as my own alleged eminence as a cricketer.

During one of these conversations sometime in 2019, Devaraj said to me, “Sir, my wife tells me her father played cricket.” Soon, I found out the cricketer in question was medium pacer Ghouse Khan who opened the bowling for A.M. Jain College in the 1960s when I was playing for Presidency College. I remembered Ghouse as a quiet, gentle person of few words. He was an effective bowler with the habit of turning to look at the sun each time he started his bowling run. He also did that while batting – a K. Srikkanth of later years. Not long afterwards, as a sudden flash of memory struck me, I knocked on my neighbour Ranga’s door to take a good look at the MRC group photograph. And there was Ghouse, standing third from left or so in the group. For a few seasons, he had played for the club, which had been run for decades by my extended family. Devaraj’s family were thrilled when I shared a copy of the photograph with them.

The story doesn’t end there. A few months later, I had another flash, as we geniuses tend to have. I wondered if I had mentioned Ghouse Khan in my cricket memoir Third Man (Please buy on Amazon, Westland 2015). I checked and yes, I did write about Ghouse while describing an exciting first round match in the Tarapore Cup of 1969. The Devaraj family’s joy knew no bounds when I gifted them a copy of the book. I had heard Ghouse had died a sad, lonely man in 1995 or so, robbed of his property by relatives. To see him featured in a book must have been a great moment for his family.

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  1. Balachandran Gopalaratnam says:

    Wonderful narration.

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