Sardesai, a simple soul who loved prawns, Hindi movies


New Delhi : Dilip Sardesai, the former India batsman who died in Mumbai Monday at the age of 66, was a simple soul who loved sea food, especially prawns, and Hindi movies besides being passionate about cricket.

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Sardesai's former India teammates Bishan Singh Bedi and Salim Durani – as also Dilip Vengsarkar, the current chairman of the selection committee – recalled how the Goa-born opening batsmen impacted everyone he came in contact with.

From his technically sound batting to his numerous visits to the Cricket Club of India (CCI) in Mumbai, where he was a regular visitor, to his food habits, the three cricketers recalled time spent with Sardesai and his contribution to the game.

"He never hurt anyone's feelings by his words or action, he was such a simple soul," charismatic all-rounder Salim Durani told IANS, recalling his long association with Sardesai.

Durani spent many a morning, afternoon and evening with Sardesai at CCI and the parties at his Mumbai home.

"Sardesai loved non-vegetarian food, especially prawns and fish, which I was allergic to. So he would order four bottles of beer for me in one go," Durani told IANS over phone.

"He loved Hindi movies. He was also very proud of his English, especially the spoken language," said Durani, who toured the West Indies with Sardesai in 1962 and 1971.

Bedi, who was also close to Sardesai, recalled his batting in the West Indies in 1971. After failing to do much on the 1962 tour of the Caribbean, Sardesai hammered 642 runs – an aggregate that was second only to debutant Sunil Gavaskar's whopping 774 – in five Tests there nine years later.

"It was Sardesai who did all the revival in the Test series. His 212 in the first Test stood out," said Bedi of the knock that came after India had lost the first three wickets for 36.

"He was an exceptionally sound batsman, technically. His contribution to India cricket is immense. He was a rare species from Goa but then he played all his cricket in Bombay. He was a great social mix-up," he said.

Although Vengsarkar never watched Sardesai play, the current selection committee chairman said that he interacted with him on a regular basis.

"He was passionate about the game. He used to come to watch all kinds of matches – school, club, first-class etc.," Vengsarkar told IANS.

"If he felt like giving an advice, he would give it straightaway. His advice was frank and honest."

Vengsarkar, who himself excelled in Test cricket, concurred with Bedi that Sardesai's contribution on the 1971 West Indies tour was, in essence, not inferior to Gavaskar's.

"I wouldn't say that his contribution paled in comparison with Gavaskar's. His contribution was amazing, and he laid a solid foundation that always helped," he said.

Durani said that Sardesai was so simple that the gang of three – Erapalli Prasanna, late M.L. Jaisimha and Durani – used to pull his leg often. He recalled an incident of the 1962 tour when he shared a hotel room with the two batsmen who are now dead.

"Jaisimha asked Sardesai if he could look for a shop nearby from where he could buy a soap to wash clothes. He told him that he would have to wash his clothes as the hotel had no laundry system," he said.

"Sardesai believed Jaisimha's words, called the room boy and asked him if he could get him a soap from outside the hotel. The room boy told him that he could give his clothes for laundry in the hotel itself. Sardesai was so simple."