Tag Archives: K.N. Prabhu

Dicky Rutnagur, an ekdum first-class dikra: RIP

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: After three days of parsimonious one-paragraph obituaries, the tributes have started coming in for Dicky Rutnagar, the Bombay-born cricket and squash correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, London, who passed away on Friday, 20 June 2013, at the age of 82.

Rutnagur, who covered 300 Test matches before he retired in 2005, belonged to the “old school” of cricket writers who believed in reporting what took place on the field.

Nicknamed “Kores” for the number of carbon copies he took of his reports to file for various newspapers Rutnagur’s favourite two words were “bloody” and “bastard”.


In The Hindu, where Rutnagur’s pieces often appeared, the veteran cricket and music writer Raju Bharatan of the now-defunct The Illustrated Weekly of India, calls Rutnagar the Zubin Mehta of cricket writing.

“Dicky’s breakthrough in journalism came as the illustrious Hindustan Times editor, S. Mulgaonkar, handpicked him to report Test cricket, at home and abroad, replacing Berry Sarbadhikary….

“His roaming spirit made him the exemplary freelance. No one enlivened the pressbox more with his puckish presence. As one Palsule from a vernacular paper kept importuning Dicky for return of a sum, his response was vintage Rutnagur: “If you ask for your money one more time, I will never borrow from you again!”

In The Telegraph, Calcutta, Amit Roy writes of how Rutnagur made the jump to the British press.

“In 1966, Dicky arrived in England with an agreement to work every day during the summer covering county games for The Daily Telegraph and then disappear abroad for the winter for Test matches.”

As if to live to up to C.L.R. James‘ famous line “What do they know of cricket who only cricket know,” Rutnagur, like his compatriot K.N. Prabhu of The Times of India, had an ear for classical music.

“I would say that cricket has been almost – almost – all consuming. But I am very fond of classical music – and jazz. Mozart and Rachmaninov, Tsaichovsky, and latterly in the last few weeks I have been listening to a lot of Beethoven.”

Like a good Parsi, Rutnagur believed in telling it like it is, sans political correctness. He said cricket writing had come a long way: From Cardus to Kotnis.

In Mid-Day, the former Hindu cricket writer, R. Mohan, reminisced:

“Walking into the Indian dressing room with him on the morning of the first ever Test match in Ahmedabad, Dicky came up with the best joke on the Indian team I had heard in a long time.

“Looking at all the Sardars sitting around – Sidhu, Sandhu, Maninder, Gursharan – Dicky came up with – Sorry, I thought this was the Indian dressing room, not the Motibagh taxi stand.’”

Amit Roy writes that Rutnagur believed the authorities at Lord’s were right to apply a strict dress code – tie and jacket for men; no jeans or trainers; and for women, no cleavage on display.

“We” – meaning men – “take the trouble to dress properly,” he said. “The least women could do was adopt the same code.”

Rutnagur wrote two books, Test Commentary (India v England, 1976-77) and Khans Unlimited (a history of squash in Pakistan).

Photograph: courtesy Mid-Day

Read a Dicky Rutnagur report: Silencing the Calypso


Press Club Bombay invites cricket, crime writers

PRESS RELEASE: The Press Club of Bombay is inviting entries from Indian print and digital journalists for cricket writing and crime reporting in memory of two former members, K.N. Prabhu and Pradeep Shinde.

The K.N. Prabhu award for cricket writing and the Pradeep Shinde award for best crime story will both carry a cash prize of Rs one lakh. The winning article/story will be awarded prize money of Rs 75,000 and a citation. The next best entry will be awarded prize money of Rs 25,000 and a citation.

Each entrant is eligible to submit three stories published in newspapers, magazines and websites in calendar year 2010. Language submissions have to be accompanied by English translations. All entries have to be supported by a letter of recommendation from the editor/ department head.

Soft copies of entries can be e-mailed to manager@pressclubmumbai.com by 24 January 2011.

This should be followed by a hard copy along with a brief CV to: The Manager, The Press Club, Mumbai, Glass House, Azad Maidan, Mahapalika Marg, Bombay 400 001 by 29 January 2011. The envelope/cover with the article must be marked ‘Journalist Awards’.

Link via Shobha Sarada Viswanathan

RAJAN BALA: Cricketers, write your own columns

KPN photo

The death of the veteran cricket writer Rajan Bala has thankfully not gone unnoticed.

ANI reveals that his real name was Natarajan Balasubramaniam. Cricinfo, the Bhagwad Gita of the Beautiful Game, has a short obituary. The Times of India‘s Satish Vishwanathan uses a Sachin Tendulkar anecdote to demonstrate Bala’s hold.

His protege, Suresh Menon, writes of walking into the offices of Deccan Herald in Bangalore over a quarter of a century ago:

“On my first day at work, fresh out of university, I asked hesitantly, “Is it all right to smoke in here?” and was welcomed with the memorable words: “So long as you don’t f**k on my table, you can do what you want.”

Here, Hemant Kenkre, the former Cricket Club of India captain, a first cousin of the legendary Indian opening batsman, Sunil Gavaskar, pays tribute.


hemant kenkre

By HEMANT KENKRE in Singapore

I first met Rajan Bala when he came with Sunil Gavaskar to our family house at Forjett Hill in 1971.

The 21-year old maestro had just come back after his epic debut in the Caribbean islands and had brought along Rajan when he came to meet his uncle, Shashikant Gavaskar. As a 13-year old, I listened, with rapt attention, the discussion (on cricket) they had which went on till the wee hours.

Over the years, I kept reading Rajan’s columns in newspapers where he held forth as the sports editor—from Calcutta, Chennai to Mumbai. His views were always forthright and came straight from his heart.

Whether one agreed with them or not, one always admired the way he put things/issues in perspective. Whatever the topic, Rajan had a distinct and a unique point of view.

Once Rajan was convinced that a person had talent, he would back him to the hilt, irrespective of the player’s performance!

A cricket romantic to the core, Rajan essentially belonged to the era of the ’70s, the days when international cricketers carried small kit-bags containing sparse equipment; a bat, few clothes and necessary guards.

The days when Walkmans and iPods did not keep cricketers from discussing the game and the times when cricketers (most of them)—after a game—went straight to the bar before they went into their rooms.

M.A.K. (Tiger) Pataudi, M.L. Jaisimha, Bishen Bedi, Ajit Wadekar, Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekar, Gundappa Viswanath, Dilip Sardesai, Salim Durrani, Eknath Solkar and Gavaskar were some of the super humans whom Rajan made superheroes with this dispatches and columns.

Jaisimha, in particular was one of Rajan’s favourite cricketers.

I distinctly remember meeting and travelling with Jaisimha during the India-England series (1992) and the many post-match drinks (not cocktails, mind you) that the debonair Hyderabadi shared with Rajan.

From Chennai to Jamshedpur, most of my evenings were spent in the company of these two titans, soaking in stories about Sir Garfield Sobers and Rohan Kanhai, Pataudi, Wadekar and Gavaskar, and about the trials and tribulations that Indian cricket went through during the ’60s and ’70s.

Rajan was also a keen music buff. Knowing my how obsessed I was with Rahul Dev (Pancham) Burman, it was Rajan who told me stories about Dilip Naik, the guitarist who played most of his opening riffs from Teesri Manzil onwards.

He used to narrate graphic stories about Sachin Dev Burman’s exploits with the tennis racket while he sipped his drink in the company of his senior K.N. (Niran) Prabhu, (Matunga Gym friend) K. Satyamurthy and Priya (Rajan’s lovely wife) after a hard day at work.

It was his encouragement—having given me a weekly column in the Bombay tabloid Afternoon Despatch & Courier (ADC)—that made me write on the game. His (tongue in cheek) quip then still rings in my ear: “You know son, cricketers should write their own columns.”

Whatever the opinions that people may have about Rajan, I will always remember him as not just one who loved the game as a passionate romantic but someone that understood Indian cricket.

Wherever he is, I know, for sure, he is in the company of his mates including Jaisimha sipping a drink and discussing whether two-sided bats, power-plays and the reverse sweep are good for cricket.

RIP Rajan: I will always miss you, and thanks for everything!

Also read: Rajan Bala, a stellar cricket writer, is no more

For our own cricket correspondent, Rajan Bala

For our own cricket correspondent, Rajan Bala

It speaks for the current state (and priorities) of journalism in Bangalore and elsewhere, that the news of one of India’s most knowledgeable cricket correspondents Rajan Bala—formerly of  Deccan Herald, Indian Express, The Asian Age—struggling for life in one of the City’s speciality hospitals, should barely make it to the pages of any one of the publications he represented.

Mr Bala went into a coma after suffering a cardiac arrest while in the studios of News9, the Bangalore-centric news channel of the TV9 group two Saturdays ago. Maybe the health of journalists is of no interest to readers, but Rajan Bala, like K.N. Prabhu before him, was no mere hack. As a writer, he was, he is, an iconic figure before cricket writing became a joke at the hands of lesser folk. As a wordsmith, he was an inspiration.

A tribute and a prayer.



As the sad news came filtering in that the great cricket writer and journalist Rajan Bala has been lying comatose after a cardiac arrest, at the Fortis Hospital in Seshadripuram, for over a week now, I achingly remembered sitting in class at Mysore’s Sharada Vilasa college in the early 1980s, on one of the wooden benches, perhaps as aged as a cask at a Scottish distillery, my twitchy mind invariably tuning itself off the lecturer’s frequency and sailing gently into the tremendously inviting and comforting world of cricket.

And cricket writing.

Rajan Bala was our hero. The final word on the game.

A guru who sent home through his writings, news and views on cricket and cricketers, which we received with reverential servitude. A man whose words on cricket were read with the same awe and fascination a child in the Himalayas would have for the formation of the sun-kissed mountains.

Rajan Bala’s cricketing sentences, to us, were formed with the same grandiose exuberance and well roundedness, the same authenticity and confidence.

To me, especially, his use of the English language, handled with phenomenal mastery, the strange novelty of certain archaic, out-of-use phrases he employed, like ‘methinks’, to denote a sense of personal opinion about someone or something; his ability to create extraordinarily catchy headlines; ‘By Lord’s, it’s India’, bringing home the news of an Indian victory on English soil in 1986 or the most memorable, ‘Marshall Law declared at Kanpur’, when speedster Malcolm Marshall rocked the ill fated Indian batting lineup during the 1983 India-West Indies test, with even Sunil Gavaskar’s bat being embarrassingly knocked out of his hands as he tried to fend towards square, were something to be feverishly discussed with friends over spicy churumuri near Ballal circle, dished out by the even-now-in-business, Dharmalingam, the Sanath Jayasuriya look-alike!

One day in 1985, I crazily travelled to Bangalore and went looking for Rajan Bala at the KSCA stadium while a Duleep Trophy game was on between South and West Zone. I knew he would be there somewhere, because I had read his report of the first day’s play in the Indian Express!

A few nervous enquiries later; I had never seen him in flesh and blood until then after all; one of the groundsmen wearing a khaki uniform pointed in the direction of a portly man with a receding hair line smoking a pipe, and engrossed in clanking the day’s report on a clearly derelict type writer placed on an old table in the administration office of the stadium.

A nervous ‘excuse me’, a few uncertain steps in his direction and he looked up.

“Hello,” his voice rose above the clatter of the Remington and a wave of his hand bid me to sit down.

“Pull up a chair,” he said. I was so excited and happy to be in his midst, the cricketing equivalent of a bowler bagging a wicket off his first ball on debut!

The day’s report was over soon and so was my introduction. He seemed amused when I shakily told him that I aspired to be a sports reporter and that my first love was cricket.

“Come tomorrow. Let’s chat,” he said before walking away from the room, presumably to beat the deadline at the office.

Krishnamachari Srikkanth got a big score the next day and after he got out, I remember him smoking, sitting on the parapet wall of the dressing room, wearing a lungi! As I took in this funny sight and hung around the pavilion area—back then, the KSCA was not really the fortress it is now and I could quite easily gain access—I was greeted by Rajan Bala who said, “So you are from Mysore, you said.”

“My uncle was the director of CFTRI,” he began. “Dr Swaminathan. I remember spending a few of my summer holidays in his house on, what road is that…ah, Geetha road,” he smiled, reminiscing. I for one found it so terribly improbable, in my rather infantile imagination, that a globe trotter like Rajan Bala could have even visited Mysore or played around on Geetha road, of all the roads in the world!

As we talked and I got a bit bolder to keep a conversation going with him, in walked into our midst, the venerable M. Chinnaswamy after whom the KSCA stadium is now named.

“So how are you, you irascible old man,” joked Bala, with one of the doyens of Karnataka cricket. I could easily make out that Rajan Bala had a certain presence born of tremendous confidence in himself and his role as a cricket writer, a certain way with words, a certain form of appeal, a certain ease with people, even with terribly important men like Chinnaswamy; not to mention cricketers, one of whom, I distinctly remember, was the promising opener Carlton Saldanha, who sat in close proximity to us that day, with a sense of well proportioned acquaintance with the imposing journalist.

Cricket journalist Joseph Hoover, who was one of the youngsters in the 1980s groomed by Rajan Bala, tells me simply, emphatically, that there has never been an Indian journalist with the cricketing knowledge of Rajan Bala.

“His strength as a writer of cricketing matters was way ahead of the others in his tribe, the knowledge stemming from his innate, instinctive talent as an observer of the game; as a formidable opener himself for Calcutta University in the good old days when he was very hard to get out; his voraciousness as a reader of books, not just on cricket but on most subjects ordinary men couldn’t even think of; English literature, science, philosophy and even business journals. He had some 3000 books in his personal library.”

Rajan Bala in his heyday could sit with a man like Sunil Gavaskar and discuss the importance of footwork at a cricket crease, and more than once had he pointed out a tiny chink or two in the otherwise impregnable armour of the legendary opening batsmen, which ordinary journalists, either couldn’t even detect or were afraid to tell.

When a pompous cricketer once took offence when a flaw was pointed out in his batting and said that journalists did not have the right to talk about technique because they hadn’t played the game at the highest level, Rajan Bala quoted Neville Cardus who had once said, “I may not have laid an egg but I can tell when I see a bad one!”

That’s how much cricket literature Bala knew.

Rajan Bala belonged to another era of cricket reporting, an era when journalists did not fall over each other to please cricketers “because we were not expected to write about a cricketer’s underwear! Most of today’s cricket journalists have unfortunately become chamchas of cricketers, who feel happy in their status as non-playing members of the team,” he once remarked with cold sarcasm.

It’s the Great Umpire above who will decide whether Mr Rajan Bala will come out of his coma and open his eyes ever again to the world. If that happens, the news would be that a man, who batted so fantastically, capably, all his life with a pen in hand, and carved out masterly strokes all around the wicket of life, to think of a turn of phrase, is ready to play ball again.

Otherwise, it would be that he played out his last over before draw of stumps, in silent anticipation of another game. Somewhere else. On some other ground that He wills.

If you ever went by what the Vedantic sage Shankaracharya propounded: ‘Punarapi maranam, punarapi jananam…

I’m sure Rajan Bala would have read this philosophy too.

Also read: Who killed (good) cricket writing?

Is this the best Indian XI of all time?

Express Buzz: Rajan Bala’s blog posts