Editor's note: This is adapted and expanded from an exchange on social media in August 2016. C V Vaidyanathan (older brother of one of my classmates) and Subhash (one of my older brothers) lived close to each other in C-Scheme, Jaipur in the early 1960s, and attended St. Xavier's School. They had not been in contact for more than 50 years when they came in touch in 2016.
CV I remember that just a day before we were planning for a cricket match, at your house (named Jwala Bhawan on Azad Marg) in C-Scheme, Subhash showed English willow cricket bat called NONJAR. This was part of your father Shri Khemchandji Mathur's collection, who carefully kept it in the shelf. This inspired the team. We won the game next day.
Subhash ‘NONJAR' was a brand of bat made out of superior willow. It had to be seasoned every year in the first half of September. It was kept in the sun during the day. Every day the bat was given small doses of tilli ka tel (sesame seed oil). The oil sank gently into the bat via the small holes pierced with a small plunger like object. It took almost 10 days before the bat was ‘seasoned' enough to play with.
But, of course we n ever did get to use it as a youngster. Because Daddy wouldn't give it out to anyone to use it. Somehow I must have sneaked it out of our house as mentioned by CV (CV's short form name) but we actually did not use it.
However, I did get to use the NONJAR bat during my posting at Jaipur in early 1980s. It finally broke when a fellow cricketer who's a player in classical mould played a cross batted shot in a league match.
I also owned a very fine cricket bat. It was not branded but just lifting it made you aware of its inner excellence. It was the envy of one and all. It was neither light nor heavy, and was made from the finest willow. Most of my cricket colleagues were happy just to hold it in their hands.
I alone played with it. I looked after it very a prized possession but eventually I decided to allow some others to put it to good use. My sons Gaurav and Tushar used it for ‘home' cricket in the driveway. And of course it broke at some point of time.
Similarly, Daddy also owned a Slazenger tennis racquet which he kept safely secured and wont part with it. But after writing the Indian School Certificate exam in Dec 64 (final exam in high school, which Subhash took in December 1964) I had plenty of free time to check out my sports hobbies until college started in July 1965.
In this holiday period, mornings began with assembly at the Xavier school tennis courts, located behind the Jesuits' residential quarters. I used the Slazenger to play with six other batch mates. We used to play with discarded tennis balls. They were almost bald and went bust after receiving some serious hitting. In two hours each of one of us could get to play two sets at least.
Eventually, the prized Slazenger broke and that ended my brief brush with tennis. But I never lost interest in the game and in fact became an ardent follower. I have since followed many heroes like Krishnan, Evert, Graff, Sampras, Borg McEnroe, Laver, Leander, Rafa and Fed Ex. In passing, I must mention the Mexican Osuna who had such an artistic smooth game. Totally, unlike Boom Becker and co.
Although, I broke the precious racquet I enjoyed my tennis immensely. Amidst us, Bhasker Sharma was the outstanding player.
In the evenings, it was back to cricket. I joined as a bowling coach at Xavier's for a short stint till the school hired a regular coach.
I then shifted my attention to honing my bowling skills at the nets. Rungtas used to organise net practice at Man Industries premises. Rungtas were always crazy about cricket. They controlled BCCI for several decades.
I practised with some budding Ranji players. Parthasarthi Sharma was one of them. Parath was my team mate in school and college. Parath went on to represent India in Test matches. His debut match was in Calcutta against England. I was then posted at Cal, and of course we met him briefly.
Parath began well with a half century but his running between the wickets and fielding were woeful. Having got the stylish Hanumant Singh run out in the first match at Calcutta, he lasted only one more game. He kept on playing first class matches for several more years but without enthusiasm. I used to run into him at Jaipur Club quite often.
Padam Singh also practised with us. He was big built and a fearsome customer. Padam is a close relative of Himagani, [popularly known as Hirni], who is my nephew Rajat's wife. Padam and I were the opening pair for the School XI. We also played together for Rajasthan College. Padam also went on to play Ranji cricket for Rajasthan.
But, as always, good things must come to an end. As summer 1965 set in, it was time to hunt for a college. The search ended with Rajasthan College at Jaipur.
CV Yes, NONJAR was a superior English willow, I remember taking a stance at your father living room in his presence; he was admiring. I have a photographic memory of the occasion.
CV We embarked on raising funds for our cricket club called "Royal Club." It started with your house. Your father spontaneously extended Rs. 5/-, which was a princely amount in early 1960s, followed by my father and many other residents of the neighbourhood.
One day we decided to speed up the drive near the Rajasthan secretariat chowraha (square). This was near the Jaipur Polo ground. Here we could manage to stop the car of the then Maharaja of Jaipur, His Highness Sawai Man Singh II Bahadur, who was an internationally acclaimed Polo player of 4-chukker standing. He looked smilingly and gave us Rs 10/-. Perhaps that was the only currency in his possession. Then, he speeded through the gates of the club on his sports car.
We collected about Rs 110/- or so. Then, we marched to Julka Sports Store, Mirza Ismail Road, and purchased sports gear. The cost of the Kashmir willow bat then was Rs 14/-. This we oiled carefully for 4 weeks, supervised by Ashok your brother (who remembers this well) and kept at your terrace. The bat lasted two sessions, before the handle came out due to a cross bat shot.
The Royal Cricket club of C-Scheme, Jaipur went on to become a leading cricket club of Jaipur, and it held this position in the league matches till, I very well remember, 1978. Well-known local players like Roopchand Mathur, Dinesh Sharma, Basant Vyas, Ashok Sharma, Rajesh Sood, Pramod Arya and myself represented the Royal Club. Almost all of them also represented the University of Rajasthan and played First Class Cricket outside the state. We were coached by the legendary Nariman Marshall, who played for British India 1932.
I represented Rajasthan University for four consecutive years.
Three players - Hemendra Surana, Parthasarthi Sharma and I - from the side were selected to represent North Zone universities' team (included all universities in northern India). The administrative managers of the Rajasthan University were Prof L. N. Mathur from Government College, Ajmer and Prof Verma from the Chemistry Department, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur. The Royal Club was a prestigious club, at par with JCC and Bright Star or Man Industries Cricket club of the Rungtas.
Subhash Cricket was a passion with the group. The mohalla (neighbourhood) kids generally played on the vacant fields behind the Secretariat building; now so much has come up there, including the Deer Park. We also used the grounds in front of the Raj Mahal (now hotel), which was earlier called the Residency. But this place was too sandy for any meaningful game of cricket.
My elder brother Prakash, popularly known as Titi in the family and PC by hi friends [he passed away in 2015] also used to play at the same grounds but with a different set of players. Titi was a wily leg spinner. He used to deceive batsmen with his loopy deliveries. He also bowled a tantalising length and was a very economical bowler. He batted well too up in the order. Later on, he played some serious cricket, and was the only one of the very few budding cricketers who owned a regular pair of cricket shoes. Cricket shoes of those days went out of fashion very quickly as they were cumbersome and heavy. Some of those who played with Titi went on to represent Rajasthan in Ranji Trophy.
We were always short on money to buy the real red cherry cricket ball. So we often played with kirmich ball or tennis ball. Each team usually had 5 to 6 players, including a few sisters. If the sisters were to be excluded by the boys, then the mothers would intervene and ensure they became part of the playing eleven. But once in a while, we managed to collect enough players, and that day we played a real match.
We usually used parchment bats. These bats were made from cheap wood but lasted longer, season after season. The fish skin parchment wrapping protected the wood very well. However, if the ball hit the splice, then the bat would break, and that was a real blow. Where was the money for the new bat!
CV True, we played the game regularly and had a good knowledge of the game. In fact, Ashok used to do a running commentary, and was a handy person.
Just wonderful to hear from you and Subhash after almost several decades.
Subhash Same here. Bush (a brand name] radio with a round dial was a source of joy - we used it to listen to cricket commentary from all over the world.
© Chittur Veer Vaidyanathan and Subhash Mathur 2016
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