The love and respect Madhav Apte commands was unmistakable at his book launch

Madhav Apte, the former India Test cricketer, launched his autobiography at a ceremony in Mumbai. Nishad Pai Vaidya reflects on a wonderful ceremony that celebrated the launch of a book authored by the master of many trades.

As one walked towards the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday evening, there was a line of cars near the Vinoo Mankad Gate. “There is a wedding today and another ceremony at the Lounge,” said one of the security personnel. “I hope they are here for the ceremony at the lounge,” whispered someone. After all, the popular Madhav Apte, was releasing his autobiography As Luck Would Have It. As one entered the lounge at the Wankhede Stadium, there was a huge group assembled to celebrate the occasion. By the time the ceremony began, there were no empty seat with many standing.

Apte played only seven Tests for India, scoring 542 runs at an average of 49.27 with one ton and three fifties. Cricket lovers remain baffled by the fact that he did not get an extended run despite those enviable numbers. He played his first and last Test at the age of 20 — a time when most youngsters are looking for a long career. Despite that heartbreak, it is apparent that Apte bears no grudges or disappointments. Look at the man and you’d see a big smile and a unique zest for life, which may even put youngsters to shame. Away from the field of play, Apte has been a successful businessman and is from one of the most respected families in Mumbai. Apte the human being eclipses Apte the cricketer!

As one entered the venue, the man himself greeted everyone who walked up to him. Dressed in a blue blazer and flashing his trademark smile, the 82-year-old looked as fit as ever. Having played many sports through his younger days, he remains in good shape. Till the early 2000s, he was quite active in Mumbai’s club cricket. He stood all the way, welcoming almost everyone, waiting for the chief guests. A few had managed to buy copies of the book, which he duly signed.

Four generations of the Apte family were present on what was memorable evening at the Wankhede Stadium. Photo: Milind Wagle.
Four generations of the Apte family were present on what was memorable evening at the Wankhede Stadium. Photo: Milind Wagle.

As Sunil Gavaskar and Deepak Parekh, the chief guests of the evening arrived, the ceremony was off and running. Beginning the evening in his own way, Apte welcomed his guests and narrated some memorable instances from his playing days and life in business. Parekh followed up with his comments on the book, but Gavaskar stole the show with all the humorous anecdotes and a few puns here and there!

What made the evening special was the presence of the large crowd. Gavaskar concluded his speech by saying that it is only evidence of the respect and regard they have for Apte. And, it wasn’t a cricketing crowd alone. Former cricketers such as Ajit Wadekar, Yajurvindra Singh, Milind Rege and Nari Contractor to name a few were in attendance. But majority of the crowd were friends from across different walks of life, including badminton legend Nandu Natekar , who came all the way from Pune for the occasion.

Badminton legend Nandu Natekar (left) with good friend Madhav Apte.
Badminton legend Nandu Natekar (left) with good friend Madhav Apte.

The writer can associate with the respect Apte gets from everyone. As a fresh reporter, just out of college, I had approached Apte for an interview about Sachin Tendulkar. At the particular time, he was happy to share all his experiences. Being the Cricket Club of India (CCI) president in the late 1980s, he had played a crucial role in helping a teenaged Tendulkar play for them, overcoming the ban on minors in the dressing room. Once the interview was done, he continued to chat with the young reporter, enquiring about his well-being. This for someone he hadn’t met but had merely chatted on the phone for a while.

Cricket, today, is a glamour sport, with the big names attracting all the eye-balls. But, behind all that glamour, are people like Apte, who create their own legacy. Despite playing only seven Tests, his stature commands respect and brought all those people to the venue. A brief run through the book would tell you that the man has shared his experiences from all walks of life. That for you is Apte, a human being par excellence.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Mumbai-based cricket journalist and one of the youngest to cover the three major cricketing events — ICC World Cup, World T20 and under-19 World Cup. He tweets as @nishad_45)

More from this writer:

Team India: International cricketers or beasts of burden?

10 superlative fielding displays in IPL 2015

The Chanderpaul Era may well have ended