P.R. Man Singh, the manager of the 1983 World Cup wining Indian team, looks back at the times
He is a treasure house of cricket anecdotes. His house is a treasure of cricket memorabilia. For P. R. Man Singh, cricket, and anything to do with cricket, is the compelling factor that keeps him happy and healthy. He lives cricket and exudes an enthusiasm you would hardly associate with a 75-year-old.
The genial Hyderabadi, with roots in Haryana, can discuss the game and its romantic history, its progress over the years, even in the dead of the night. He is best known as the manager of the 1983 World Cup winning team. He was the binding force that motivated the players in times of distress.
How did he manage stars like Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev? “Simple. I didn’t treat them as a flock of sheep. I treated all the players individually, learnt their likes and dislikes and drove them to perform. It was not difficult.”
Was handling Gavaskar and Kapil really that easy? “I would be lying if I say I didn’t have problems. But then I had known them from the VST (Vazir Sultan Tobacco) days when they were schoolboys. They actually made my task easy because they had regard for my old association with them.”
There was trouble brewing when the Indian team landed at Nottingham for a World Cup match against Australia. Gavaskar was ‘dropped’ and, at the same time, he was ‘rested’. It depended on how it was presented. Man saab was alert as India prepared to play the West Indies next at London. No place for Gavaskar again. ‘Rested’ or ‘injured’? Now Man saab was concerned. His man management came to the fore. He cornered Kapil even though selection was not part of his responsibility. “What of Sunny (Gavaskar)?” Man saab asked. “What of him?” Kapil countered. “Is he playing?” Kapil smiled, “Of course. I’ll inform him.” Man saab felt relieved. The team was on the right track. Zimbabwe was the next target. Kapil played that epic knock and the path to the final at Lord’s became clearer.
Man saab remembered another issue. How to accommodate wives of players since the Board’s contract prohibited them from staying in the same hotel. It also prevented them from travelling in the team bus. “Chika (K. Srikkanth) was newly married and his wife (Vidya) was visiting him. I solved the problem by taking a decision on my own,” remembered Man saab. He invited Roger Binny, Srikkanth’s partner, to share his room. Later, the wives were also accommodated on the team bus.
Over the years, Man saab came to indulge in his love of collecting memorabilia. “It started with my first rich possession. I was fond of reading and bought my first book ‘End Of An Innings’ by Denis Compton. It started a trend and I never stopped.”
Among his most prized possession is the 1983 World Cup champion’s medal and an autograph book that includes signatures of most cricketers who played up to 1980. “At the Golden Jubilee Test (in 1981), the Board had invited former Test cricketers. I was assigned the job of distributing the allowances. It was easy getting their autographs as I distributed their allowances.”
Man saab’s association with cricket has been multi-faceted. He has been an office-bearer in Hyderabad Cricket Association for 27 years, retiring in 1991, organised cricket tours for Hyderabad Blues, managed teams and promoted the game in various capacities. His travels helped him set up a cricket museum in his house, a much envied collection of rare stuff, from bats, balls, caps to flannels, ties and books.
He is a friend of cricketers but laments the crass commercialisation of the game. “It signifies the times we live in but the basics have remained the same. The size of bat and ball and height of the stumps and length of the pitch have not changed.” Neither has Man saab, still welcoming old friends with open arms.