He is a treasure trove of cricket tales and P.R. Man Singh cannot resist sharing his side of India’s 1983 World Cup win. “I know much has been written and said about June 25 and all but I have a collection which can delight our cricket fans for eternity,” said Man saab, as he is fondly known.
At 81, Man saab can vividly recall stories from the epic journey which began when he was appointed manager of the World Cup team.
“I was assistant manager when we went to Pakistan in 1978. So this was my first full-fledged assignment as the team manager.
“And I flouted many Board rules in my capacity as manager,” he confessed to The Hindu here on Wednesday.
“It was an honour to be co-opted in the committee which was to appoint the captain for the World Cup. We had stalwarts in the selection committee — Ghulam Ahmed, Chandu Borde, Chandu Sarwate, Bishan Singh Bedi and Pankaj Roy. The meeting was held at Hotel Taj Man Singh in Delhi but for some reason Roy did not attend,” remembered Man saab. Kapil Dev’s appointment was “smooth” and he was co-opted along with the manager to select the squad.
“The team was picked on merit and we left a week before the World Cup,” he added.
“We lost three of the four warm-up matches but recovered to stun the world.”
But what Board rule did he flout? “I allowed wives to accompany the players,” Man saab chuckled.
“We had four players with their wives and I gave them permission to stay in the hotel.
“I also allowed them to travel in the team bus when going to venues out of London. This was unthinkable then. Good the Board today allows the players to bring their families for some time.”
The well-documented triumph has another fascinating story. “The next morning I was so happy to see the team keep its (prior) commitment to play the benefit match for (fast bowler) T. Govindraj.
“We were the world champions now and it was chaotic at the (venue) Indian Gymkhana. After a while, the crowd invaded the field and the match had to be abandoned. But Govindraj had his benefit game.”
Eating his words
An unforgettable memory was Man saab making a top English journalist feel embarrassed for mocking India’s participation.
“After we won, I wrote to him. And he was sporting enough to publish his picture in the magazine with paper in his mouth and a caption — I eat my words.”