Autographs of cricket's who's who for auction

Published: Friday, July 23, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Kolkata:In what may be the world's biggest ever auction of cricketers' autographs, the signatures of the jewels of the game from the past and present representing almost all Test playing nations are set to go under thehammer on July 25 to raise funds for charity.

From Douglas Jardine to Lala Amarnath, from Gary Sobers to Sachin Tendulkar, the rich collection of memorabilia provides a great opportunity for the bidders to take home a piece of cricketing history as well as contribute in bettering the lives of underprivileged children.

Organised by the Lions Club International District 322B1 in aid of its 'Bless a Child' project, the auction comprises items taken from the personal collection of a businessman Nishant Singhal, whose undying passion for the game has goaded him for years to chase famed cricketers for their autographs.

With his painstaking efforts yielding rich dividends, the 47-year old Singhal now has a treasure trove of autographs of hundreds of cricketers.

''I started taking autographs when I was 11. My passion for cricket prompted me to collect autographs of cricketers. As time passed, the collection kept growing.

''My collection has been globally praised. But I have always felt worried about their upkeep as regretfully I could not find a suitable museum or institution where they can be kept for future generations. I discussed the matter with my wife Preeti and decided to give them to charity,'' saysSinghal.

The high point of the auction will be a 90 cm X 60 cm Irish linen that contains autographs of 97 players whose list reads like a who's who of cricket from Rohan Kanhai, Imran Khan, Tony Greig, Dennis Lillee, Sunil Gavaskar, Sourav Ganguly, Hanif Mohd, Kapil Dev, Richie Benaud, Steve Waugh to Hansie Cronje.

''The cricketers, whose autographs appear on the linen, have contributed altogether 2,75,712 runs and taken 5,502 wickets in 4,980 Test matches,'' Singhal says proudly.

The linen itself, now worn out, can qualify as a piece of cricketing heritage. Bought from Lord's, the Mecca of cricket, by former Bengal Ranji Trophy player Raja Venkat, who gifted it to Singhal, the linen has inscribed on it the definition of the game as given by Jardine, the legendary England skipper.

''You have two sides one out in the field and one in. Each man that's in the side that's in goes out and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out. ... sometimes you get men still in and not out... when both sides have been in and out including the not-outs that's the end ofthe game'' runs the immortal words of Jardine.

Singhal says once he got the linen, he resolved that he'd make it ''something unique''. ''Therefore, I started collecting the players' autographs on it whenever any team visited the city.''

Other priceless items on the auction list include the autographs of the English and Indian teams when India hosted the first official Test series in 1933-34.

''I had got it from a friend of mine, whose father had collected the autographs,'' Singhal says.

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