Dicky Rutnagar and Jaywant Lele: Remembering two of Indian cricket’s loved figures

Sachin Bajaj’s Global Cricket School hosted an evening in remembrance of Dicky Rutnagur (left) and Jaywant Lele at the Cricket Club of India (CCI) in Mumbai on Friday

Mumbai: Oct 5, 2013
It was an evening in memory of two eminent figures in cricket from yesteryear. The sport lost the great commentator Dicky Rutnagar and the popular administrator Jaywant Lele this year, men who are fondly remembered by the cricketing fraternity for they left an indelible mark in their respective fields. Sachin Bajaj’s Global Cricket School hosted an evening in their remembrance at the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai on Friday which was attended by numerous dignitaries such as former India Test captains Chandu Borde and Nari Contractor, former Mumbai cricketer Milind Rege, Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) chief Ravi Savant and veteran journalist Raju Bharathan.
Rutnagar was one of most eminent journalist and commentators who covered numerous Test matches around the globe. “He always had a smile and would be up for a joke. He was a role model to us. The players held him in high regard and he had their respect throughout his career” said Bharathan.
Borde too recalled Rutnagar and said that, “When he would talk to the likes of Farokh Engineer and others in their language, the others in the Indian team used to enjoy listening to him. He was a straightforward man.” Contractor was also closely associated with Rutnagar and delivered a moving address in memory of him.
Rutnagar left India and settled in England and covered sport for the Daily Telegraph. He tried returning as a commentator for one series in India, but wasn’t allowed as he was then a British citizen. Bharathan said, “It was sad that he wasn’t allowed. He could have been the guest commentator.” Rutnagar was also behind the Indian Cricket-Field Annual along with legendary statistician Anandji Dossa. They maintained every small detail of the sport in an era when there were no calculators and no luxury called the internet.
Lele was an administrator loved by journalists and the players. Borde had known him since their young days and narrated how committed Lele was to the cause of cricket. He said, “I remember we had gone to Baroda to play a game. He was so involved in organising things for the game and gave his full effort. It was great to see him do that.”
“I feel sad that I couldn’t go to his funeral. Only a few days before he passed away, he had celebrated his 75th birthday. I was in Bangalore and when I returned to Pune, I was shocked to hear the news of him passing away” Borde said.
Always a player’s administrator, Borde recalled an interesting incident involving Lele, “Once, an India Under-19 team had gone to England and the players were having a tough time adjusting to the food. They couldn’t make do with the lunch that was served and were craving for Indian food. He ensured it was done and the players got what they wanted.”
The evening ended with Bajaj reading a letter from Harsha Bhogle, who described his experiences with Rutnagar. Bhogle wrote, “He had this beaming smile and not a mere parting of the lips. When I was a youngster, I read a comment from him which said that he enjoyed the way I presented the game. That compliment has stayed with me all these years.”