Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Humour in Cricket - Capt. Manohar Sharma

Captain Manohar Sharma was the only Team Manager that I remember who brought a human side, a rare professionalism and serious value addition to the team. He is a dignified man, someone you respect automatically. Handsome, nattily dressed, always with an easy smile Sharma saab was the perfect balance of someone who was approachable and authoritative. He was the Team Manager for an Under 25 match against Tamil Nadu in Madras. I was one of the four or five players who was waiting on the sidelines to play Ranji Trophy and any good performance here would do us well.

The day before the match we were taking flat, outfield catches. Some of us dropped a few catches which was not unusual and we proceeded regardless. Sharma saab walked into the ground and asked us to repeat another round of those catches. We dropped a few again. That's when he told us that in some grounds it happens - the sea, the breeze whatever. We took a few more catches - this time with some more care now that the issue had been pointed out. I thought that was pretty sharp. We normally look for that sort of inputs.

On day one of the game I had a bleak day. Actually not so bleak considering it was a batting track and a couple of catches were dropped off my bowling but I put too much pressure on myself (I have a penchant for doing that). Going wicketless was one thing but a misfield for four and my misery was complete. How could I, a Ranji Trophy aspirant, make such errors. I was despondent. As we walked off the perceptive Sharma saab did something I have not seen any administrator at HCA ever do - he called me aside and spoke to me as a mentor would. He asked me what was bothering me, told me that it's ok and not to worry. That was very comforting and I returned a much happier man.

When I went to give Captain Sharma the book written by V. Ramnarayan, we chatted for a while. He was kind enough to present me with a copy of his book 'Humour in Cricket'. The first thing that hit me was the amount of cricket and sports he played with such distinction and all that he achieved in his life. He played for Madhya Pradesh, Services, Hyderabad and played along some of the greatest names in Indian cricket - all of whom recalled him fondly. Most of all I was impressed with his closeness to his mentor C.K. Nayudu and I am hoping to look in on Sharma saab ad get some dope on his olden days, his reminiscences of C.K. Nayudu etc.

The Indore stories of the cricketers competing to eat, CK Nayudu vaulting over the high jump at 61 years, the contrasting advice he received from the aggressive CK and others on whether the hit the ball or defend were all interesting. When I visit Indore which I plan to sometime this year, I hope to visit some of those places. The prank played by M.A.K. Pataudi on the shikar where his men dressed as dacoits and threatened to kill the cricketers is folklore. Another unforgettable incident is the one where Pataudi placed a dead crocodile in Sharma ji's bed on a world tour. Absolutely unbelievable.

I am glad I read the book and now know Sharma ji more. He had achieved much in his life as an officer in the armed services, in SBI, as a cricketer and continues to actively contribute to society through the veterans cricket forum (thanks to him and the veterans forum I got a HCA sweater and cap which I cherish even now). He is very active in Uma Nagar Residents Association and is always looking for ways to improve lives that little bit more. The world could do with more people like Sharma ji.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book.


Rajendra said...

Sounds like another era altogether. Indore explorations are a must!

Harimohan said...

Oh yes Raja. I will get the book along when I come. It's full of fun anecdotes and reminds us of a time when life was simpler and less cluttered.