Tribute to Lala: He left a lasting impression

Written by: Shantha Rangaswamy
Published: Wednesday, August 9, 2000, 15:00 [IST]
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There are few persons in this world who leave behind a lasting impression even after a brief encounter, like the fragrance of the Rose even after it is crushed. To this elite group belonged the legendary Lala Amarnath, who passed away recently in New Delhi at a ripe old age of 88.

Lala had a charming personality and would invariably be the cynosure of any social gathering, with his talent of entertaining people with his "anecdotes" on cricket, both on and off field. He dared people to contradict him and more often than not carried the evening's gathering with him.

By his own admission, he loved to be a rebel especially during the pre-Independence days when selection was based more on family background than on ability.

Captains were named, based on royalty rather than cricketing knowledge, which could not be digested by greatly gifted players like Lala.

His description of how he was sent back from England under controversial circumstances on charges of indiscipline would captivate any audience.

The way he described the field placements given by his captain to his bowling on that tour and his reaction to it would leave the gathering in splits. He seemed to revel in such circumstances.

His association with women's cricket started in 1976 when the Indian team was playing New Zealand in India. In the Test match played at Delhi, heavy rains had rendered the grounds wet and soggy. He personally supervised the drying up operations and ensured play commenced.

He was brought in as an observer by the Women's Cricket Association of India (WCAI), and he ended up being a commentator on All India Radio. It was after the India-New Zealand series that he was roped in to train the 25 Indian probables in a coaching camp held at Lucknow in 1976.

The three-week camp under his stewardship helped me learn a lot of the finer points of the game. He was a fount of knowledge and was very forceful in conveying his views.

Although I was already the Indian captain, having led India in all the Tests against New Zealand, it was Lala who introduced the away swinger to my armoury by changing the way I gripped the ball.

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