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A son remembers his father

A son remembers his father

A recent piece on my late father in the Wisden India Almanac was titled Luck by Talent. And that, perhaps, exemplifies Dilip Sardesai’s story. My father at the age of 17 had never played on a turf wicket in his life. He was born in Goa and played all his cricket in Goa, which at the time was ruled by the Portuguese. So he had absolutely no cricketing legacy to speak of. Yet four years later, he was playing cricket for India having moved to Mumbai at the age of 17. And just think about it, India had never before nor since, produced a Goa-born cricketer. To my mind, it exemplifies the kind of journey that my father had to make. He often used to tell me, “You have got it all. You have got the facilities. You have got the legacy. You have got the opportunity. But my friend, you don’t have the talent and you don’t have the fire in the belly.” And he was right. To make it to the top, you need a fire in the belly. In 1962, my father went to the West Indies as a 21-year-old. Nari Contractor got hit on the head and no one wanted to open the batting. My father put his hand up and had he not opened at that time, perhaps he would have averaged even more. In fact, purely as a middle-order batsman, he averaged almost 45 in Test cricket, which was remarkable for that time. The fact though, is he eventually became a middle-order batsman only really in 1971 when he went to the West Indies again and became, as history puts it, the renaissance of Indian cricket by scoring 642 runs in that series. I want to share a little story with you. I was at the Bhubaneswar airport and the CISF person comes to me and says, “Sir, please come to the VIP lounge.” I thought, “Great. He has recognised me from TV.” The next thing I know, he turns around and says, “Dilip Sardesai’s son. Dilip Sardesai 212 Kingston.” If 44 years after he played that historic innings, people still remembered it, then it must have been a very special moment and a special year for Indian cricket. One of my enduring misfortunes is that I never saw him bat in a Test match. I was told he was terrific against spin. He wasn’t the greatest fielder but he was always someone who was ready for a fight. That’s how I would like to think about my late father. As a cricketer who came from a small town and who loved life as much as he loved cricket, that’s the way I would like to see my old man as he celebrates his 75th birthday. Up there somewhere, I am sure he is having his favourite prawn curry and rice.

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