10 Greek Gods in Indian cricket between the 1960s and 1980s
Three of the 10 Greek Gods in Indian cricket between the 1960s and 1980s (from top left): ML Jaisimha, Tiger Pataudi and Salim Durani

Cricketers today enjoy rock star-like status. They earn megabucks, live a lavish lifestyle and rub shoulders with the rich and the famous. They flaunt a range of high-end cars accompanied by some of the most ravishingly beautiful women around. It was a far cry from the bygone past, where the average cricketers led a normal life. They got themselves a good education, went about their normal jobs and played for the country when called upon. The infrequent international fixtures and without the army of media personnel monitoring their every move made life easy for cricketers. But even in those days, some men stood out for their striking personalities. H Natarajan picks 10 Greek Gods from Indian cricket between the 1960s and 1980s whose personalities made the women go weak in their knees.

 

 

1:  ML Jaisimha (1959 to 1971)

ML Jaisimha
ML Jaisimha

 

If any cricketer of those times epitomised the word “tall, dark, lean and handsome”, then it questionably was ML Jaisimha. Anybody who was a close friend of Tiger Pataudi had to be classy, which Jai was. He played at a time when Indian society was still conservative and the women rather demure and restrained in their show of public feelings for males. Notwithstanding the fact, Jai still commanded unabashed female following. As a youngster, I remember the women at Mumbai’s hallowed Cricket Club of India going crazy as Jai led his team back into the pavilion, waving to his female fans in acknowledgement. Even in his old age, Jai — with his salt and pepper, thick wavy hair, sharp nose, arresting gait and collar turned up — looked like a Greek God. Like his good friend Tiger, Jai had both class and style.

 

2:  Abbas Ali Baig (1959 to 1967)

 Abbas Ali Baig. Photo: The Hindu​
Abbas Ali Baig. Photo: The Hindu​

Another Hyderabadi in the Pataudi “inner circle”, Baig too — like Tiger — was an Oxford alumni. Baig’s cricketing aura was built around 1959 when he got a SOS from the Indian team while still studying in Oxford. The 20-year-old answered the call in style- getting a hundred on debut against Fred Trueman and Company. Baig was restrained like Tiger than flamboyant and gregarious like Jai. But the amalgam of good looks, academic background and sporting aura had its effect on the women, one of whom tore through the spectators and planted a kiss on his cheeks during a Test against Australia at Brabourne Stadium. Remember, this was in 1960 — an ultra-conservative India where few women were seen on cricket grounds.

 

3:  Tiger Pataudi (1961 to 1975)

Tiger Pataudi with his wife Sharmila Tagore
Tiger Pataudi with his wife Sharmila Tagore

The suave, blue-blooded, Oxford-educated “Tiger” had the looks, glamour, intelligence and the aura of a top international sportsman to be in a class of his own. With his charisma and magnetism, the debonair made heads turn wherever he went. He was a man of few words, but he made his brevity count with his wit and wisdom. It came as no surprise when India’s most desirable young man married the sex symbol of his times — Sharmila Tagore. The classy, made-for-each-other couple raised the hotness quotients like few others then or even now.

 

 

4:  Salim Durani (1960 to 1973)

Salim Durani - Photo: The Hindu
Salim Durani – Photo: The Hindu

He was ‘Prince Salim” to the cricketing world. He was tall with the good looks of an Afghanistani Pathan, which he was. Born in Kabul and bred in India, Durani was dasher — on and off the field. He could win a match off his bat or ball — but when in the mood. He had the looks of a film star and, in fact, starred in a movie, Charitra, opposite Parvin Babi.

 

 

5:  Farokh Engineer (1961-1975)

Farokh Engineer
Farokh Engineer

He was probably the first Indian cricketer who marketed his good looks profitably. Brylcreem signed up extremely good looking men like Keith Miller and Denis Compton. And to that list they added Farokh Engineer — then a tall and fit young man. Very fair, like most Parsis, with dark curly hair and huge sideburns, Engineer appealed to the youth of his generation with his flamboyance — behind and in front of the wickets. As a batsman he got 94 before lunch on the first day of a Test, making a world class attack of Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, Gary Sobers and Lance Gibbs look like club class. It added to his flashy personality.

 

 

6:  S Venkataraghavan (1965-1983)

S Venkataraghavan
S Venkataraghavan

Like most Tam Brams from Chennai, Venkataraghavan ensured himself an engineering degree, despite the pressures of playing cricket at the highest level. That is almost a must-have in any Tamil Brahmin’s matrimonial CV!  Venkat was tall, slim and boyish looking in his younger days. The moustache and thick mop of floppy hair came later. He was cerebral in every sense of the word and the India captaincy had to come to him, which enhanced his image as a perfect son-in-law candidate for prospective mothers-in-law. In fact, before the Dream Girl Hema Malini fell in love with Dharmendra and married him, it was said that Hema Malini’s mother was keen that her daughter got married to the perfect Iyengar boy in Venkat.

 

 

7:  Roger Binny (1979 to 1987)

Roger Binny
Roger Binny

In a country where many go weak in the knees looking at a ‘gora’, the Anglo-Indian Roger Binny was a much-likeable boy. He was tall, golden-brown haired and very shy. But the most prominent part of the Binny personality was his posterior — something which attracted copious female attention, especially when he ran in to bowl. And that part of his anatomy made team-mates give him the nickname “Jackie’ — short for jackfruit!

 


8:   Sandeep Patil (1980-1986)

Sandeep Patil
Sandeep Patil

Tall, slim with blessed with sharp features, Sandeep Patil was a hedonist in the true sense of the word. His attacking strokeplay added to his macho appeal. He also acted in a Bollywood movie, Kabhi Ajnabhi The, with Poonam Dhillon and Debashree Roy. Now close to 59, he still looks fit and strikingly handsome — the thin beard with streaks of greys adding to his charm. His remarkable sense of humour adds to his popular personality.

 

 

9:  Ravi Shastri (1981-1992)

Ravi Shastri
Ravi Shastri

He was still in his teens when he was made his international debut. Pencil-slim and standing six feet, four inches in his socks, Shastri was a huge hit among the females. As his cricketing stocks rose, his glamour quotient increased. Soon he was in the gossip columns for his flaming romance with actress Amrita Singh. The fact that he was good-looking, went to good educational institutions, spoke fluent English and hailed from a highly-qualified family all added up.  And the flashy Audi car that he won as Champion of Champions in Australia made him the one of the most desirable young men in the country.

 

10:  Sadananad Vishwanath (1985-1988)

Sandanand Vishwanath (Kneeling on the extreme left)
Sandanand Vishwanath (Kneeling on the extreme left)

He was a poster boy of Indian cricket in the mid-80s. Young, dashing, flamboyant and who dared to speak his heart out on the field — however big the opponent’s stature. The light-skinned Bangalore boy’s stocks zoomed during the 1985 World Championship of Cricket in which he was one of India’s heroes. He was the quintessential chocolate boy hero from Mills and Boon that girls loved to dream of.

 

 

Honourable mention:

Had this list date back to a few decades, Syed Musthaq Ali (1934 to 1952) would have been a certainty. Very tall, striking handsome and very stylishly dressed with hair well slicked back, he had the kind of looks to become a Bollywood hero. And like Sandeep Patil in a later era, he was aggression personified at the crease. He remained stylish and dapper even when well past his seventies.

 

(H Natarajan is a journalistic schizophrenic who oscillates between two polar opposite forms of writing —analytical and insightful on the one hand, and rib-tickling humour on the other)