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Man Singh:a passion for cricket is undimmed by time

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Hyderabad in India is known for its Biryani and the stylish cricketers it has produced. I had the opportunity to spend some time over delicious tea at the JK Kabob Restaurant with Mr. P R Man Singh. He may not be a household name in cricket circles of India and the United States, his achievements as the Manager of the Indian cricket team for the Prudential World Cup in 1983 are well documented.

An extremely cerebral individual and a Mechanical Engineer by profession, this Hyderabad Ranji Trophy player developed a knack for administrative skills at a young age. He went on to become the secretary of the Hyderabad Cricket Association and eventually rose through the ranks to be appointed as manager of the Kapil Dev-World
Cup winning team in 1983.

Reminiscing about cricket played three decades ago, Mr. Man Singh, popularly referred to as `Maan Saab’, was extremely sharp in recalling several interesting anecdotes about the 1983 World Cup played in England. “Our support was from our players” he added when asked about the reasons for success of 1983 exploits of the World Cup.

“We did not get any farewell dinner prior to our departure to England nor did we get much publicity then”, he remarked about the coverage back in 1983.  Asked about Kapil Dev, he was quick to mention about the confidence he had in his teammates and the fact that the motto was “have no fear”.

Mr. Man Singh proudly shared an anecdote about his father’s prediction to keep extra space in his collection on the mantle for the 1983 Prudential Trophy. Cricket has been his ultimate passion and even at the age of 75, his untiring love for the game was quite evident during our interactions.

Mr. Man Singh’s collection of cricket memorabilia, which is housed in a special section of his residence, has been a treat for cricket aficionados who are lucky to visit the place.  Recalling several of his collections, he obviously beamed with joy when reminiscing the 1983 World Cup.

His in-depth knowledge of individual cricketers was so impressive that he knew what idiosyncrasies some of the cricketers from yesteryear had. For instance, Polly Umrigar would feel his cap prior to every ball he faced, Vijay Merchant would touch the right side of his body prior to facing every delivery or Sunny Gavaskar would wear a new item before every Test match.

Mr. Man Singh was quick to identify, along with a local coach, Mohammed Azharuddin’s brilliant cricketing talent.  It turned out that Azhar started out as a bowler and it was not until the interaction between Mr. Man Singh and the coach that Azhar eventually decided to pursue his batting skills more seriously and then of course rest was history.

The best innings he witnessed was by G. R. Viswanath in a swashbuckling performance (97 not out) against the West Indies at the Chepauk (Madras) in 1974-75.  His all time favourite bowling performance was by B. S. Chandrasekhar at the Oval in the historic 1971 Test match against England.

I was quite surprised from the answer to the question , “Who is your favourite cricketer?” . He quipped unhesitatingly – “Viv Richards” . Mr. Man Singh was in absolute awe of the sheer natural ability of this
West Indian cricketer.  When asked if Sachin Tendulkar should retire, Mr. Man Singh replied, “It is for him to decide”

Mr. Man Singh was among the lucky few to be present at the conclusion of the 1983 as well as 2011 World Cup finals.  While he was obviously an integral component of the management in 1983, he was a keen fan at
the Wankhede Stadium when M. S. Dhoni hoisted a six over mid on to bring India the World Cup after 28 years.

Understandably, he is not a fan of the Indian Premier League. His lack of excitement of this shortened version of the game was hardly a surprise. Mr. Man Singh is known to be a fierce traditionalist.

A city known for its cuisine and cricket, Hyderabad can take pride in this gentle giant whose passion for cricket, even at 75, is remarkable.  It was indeed a pleasure to meet this affable cricket administrator.

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