For most people, the name Meher Baba would conjure up images and write-ups about the Saint Meher Baba. I am certain, not so for those of my generation and before - for whom the domestic cricket meant a lot more than Test matches featuring visiting foreign teams. For me specifically, the Ranji Trophy matches as well as the Gopalan Trophy matches of the 70s hold a lot more fondness than any other form of cricket. These and the Buchi-Babus were the ones I grew up watching. And the days I hung tirelessly around Southern Railways Institute ground watching Abdul Jabbar and the Binny Ground watching Venkataraghavan bowl. Of course, the special day when my uncle came and took permission to take me out of school early so that I get to watch Sunil Gavaskar play for Mafatlal at Loyola College Grounds. Memories... memories... memories!
I remember playing my road cricket one evening in the mid-70s. I was fielding closer to the batsman, on the road. In front of me, unfurled was the Test Match Brochure I had procured while watching the India-England series that featured the feared English pace attack of Arnold, Old and Co. The page that unfurled in front of me was that of the profile of Eknath Solkar. That was how mad I was at cricket then as a little scrawny boy in the 70s. For me then, as to millions today, cricketing heroes did much more than gods in temples. Eknath Solkar was my fielding icon and Ramnath Parkar & Gundappa "Vishy" Vishwanath batting gods. Legions were my fight with friends about who's better Sunil or Vishy! Can you take it any better when I say, 14 out of 18 centuries by Vishy paved India's wins?
This post is dedicated to one such great dashing favourite of mine... who sadly, recently passed away at a not so old age of only 58, succumbing to cancer.
MEHER BABA - who played for Andhra chiefly, at a time when Andhra was like Tripura today in India's cricket map; who I incidentally had the opportunity to watch as a 9-going-10 year old boy at Salem, playing against Tamil Nadu that featured greats like Venkataraghavan, Michael Dalvi, V. Siva, V.V. Kumar (he of the legend that goes that Kumar refused to take guard in a match featuring Dennis Lillee on his run-up to bowl. I don't know how true that was considering Kumar played Test in '61 while Lillee started first class cricket in mid-60s! But this is a nostalgic bitchbyte from memory lane discussion), Satwendar Singh and T E Sreenivasan. The reason I remember this match is not just because of Meher Baba. He did nothing much in this match, although he was known for his exciting and intrepid approach to batting. It was because Venkat came two down, if my memory serves right, before T.E ! But I was too young to fathom the importance of all those then. One more thing I remember is it was a really "gone to the wire" matches which was won by 1 run or 3 runs. Who won? I forget!!! Back to Meher Baba! He played prominently for Andhra, very briefly for Hyderabad and was a regular feature for almost a decade for South Zone against both other zonal teams as well as visiting foreign teams in those days when visiting teams played a lot more practice matches with domestic teams to get themselves acclimatised than like now!
In my cricketing memory, Meher Baba would always be remembered for his dashing and fearless left-handed batting much more to be identified always with either Tamilnadu or Sri Lankan cricketers (has there been any county or nation that has produced so many left-handed dashers compared to these two, I really wonder. Of course, New Zealand comes close in the south-paw department, but not quite there!). I have not much seen him play, but read a lot about and heard commentaries of - at times when the golden voices of Suresh Saraiya (who is still commentating, even now during the on-going Down Under series) and Anand Setelvad dominated the radio and radio was our staple diet and main source of live cricket! I visited cricinfo to get some stats about Meher Baba and this is the link, if you want to get there: http://content-ind.cricinfo.com/india/content/player/31312.html
People who have watched Baba in action please fill me in. Or anything about 70s Ranji Cricket! May his soul RIP!