Kolkata: It was a time when cricket and Bollywood were far from enjoying the synergy of today. Lata Mangeshkar, India’s nightingale who left the grieving nation on Sunday, has always been a die-hard cricket fan who never failed to make time to be present at Brabourne Stadium – whether to watch the India feature in a test match or Bombay (yes, far from Mumbai) play a Ranji Trophy match.
In a life of unparalleled simplicity, music and cricket were his two well-known passions. It’s a subject of folklore as to how she volunteered to do a gig for a cash-strapped Indian cricket council to raise money to congratulate Kapil Dev’s team for winning the 1983 World Cup. Or lately how the motorcade of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s T20 World Cup winning team stopped for a brief while at her residence in Peddar Road so she could give them their to wave.
The icon’s personal connection with the little master Sachin Tendulkar, whom he called ‘Aai’ (mother in Marathi) is too well known and it is no surprise that Tendulkar and his wife Anjali were present at the last rites on Sunday.
What, however, still incites quiet silence is that cricket was also the source of his special friendship with Raj Singh Dungarpur – a romantic cricket with royal lineage from the princely state of Dungarpur in Rajasthan which ruled over Indian cricket in the 80s and 90s.
Raj Singh, “Raj bhai” for the cricketing fraternity, was he the man of his life? The issue had been a hot topic in the Indian cricketing community, but it was common knowledge that their friendship was special and apparently could not be celebrated, with the former’s royal lineage proving to be something of a hindrance.
Lord’s, London’s cricketing mecca, faces a row of apartment buildings across the main gate and it is believed they used to have a flat there and were often seen watching matches at the historic site. Raj Singh once confided in their relationship: “We come from different backgrounds. The 60s were very different. Both were attached to their respective families. It was one of those things that just didn’t happen.
Former chairman of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and chairman of the selectors who made the Cricket Club of India (CCI) pavilion at Brabourne his home in Mumbai so that he could stay close to cricket, Raj does not is never married. while Lata had kept a dignified silence about her personal life.
There is almost a historical context to what could have explained his interest in cricket more than deeply. The Mangeshkars, as a family, had more than a casual interest in cricket as she enjoyed a family relationship with Vinoo Mankad, arguably India’s greatest all-rounder in the pre-Kapil Dev era.
Talk to Gulf News On the phone, former 1980s Mumbai cricketer and former Mumbai Indians cricket operations manager Shishir Hattangadi tried to put things into perspective. ”It was a different Bombay in the 50s and 60s where music, movies and cricket combined to give the city its cultural identity and Lata Didi was very passionate about cricket. Her admiration for ‘Master’ Mulvantrai Vinoo Mankad resulted in a brother-sister affair and the story goes that Mankad attached a ‘rakhi’ (an Indian ritual to formalize a sister relationship) to her.’
The philosophy of that time was different and in what would be an unthinkable proposition today, the stalwarts of the Indian cricket team of the time like Mankad, Vijay Manjrekar were great connoisseurs of Hindustani classical music and one could seeing nodding in appreciation at a concert by a Pandit Bhimsen. Joshi or Faiaz Khan in a corner.
”I had met her once at a dinner at the CCI and was very impressed with her knowledge of the sport. While following Mankad, Manjrekar or the versatile Dattu Phadkar, Lata Didi was a huge fan of Tiger Pataudi and of course Sunil Gavaskar, after his debut in the 1971 series. She greatly admired West Indies cricketers while Sir Garfield Sobers was a particular favourite,” recalls Hattangadi.
During her tribute to one of the TV stations on Sunday, Sharmila Tagore, the legendary actor and wife of the late Tiger, recalled how Lata politely chastised her for her ignorance of certain facets of the sport. ”He was a person who knew his cricket. She loved Tiger and once told me that being the Indian Captain’s wife I should update myself more on the game,” she fondly recalls.
”We can never forget how she stepped forward and supported the cause of cricketers and stood by BCCI when there were not many resources available to the board. We paid homage to the Nightingle of India by keeping our flag at half mast. She has left a void that will not be filled,” said Avishek Dalmiya, chairman of the Bengal Cricket Association (CAB).
If the Nightingale of India had done the BCCI a favor by performing at this concert in 1983 to raise funds, the Indian board of directors returned the favor by facilitating a charity match between the Indian XI and the Sri- Lankan in 1998 at the Wankhede stadium to help him. raising funds for a hospital in Pune that the family founded.
The practice of naming stands in cricket stadiums is usually reserved for legends of the game. Can there be an exception this time at ICC, given her almost childlike passion for the sport and what she brought to Table ?