Sir Richard Hadlee bowls over a photographer once again

It's not every day that one goes to a press conference and learns that one of cricket's greats is there. What I thought was a routine photo op of the signing of a trade pact between an Indian and a New Zealand firm on Friday turned out to be a nostalgic trip not only for me but also for Sir Richard Hadlee.

It took me back a quarter century.

The date was November 11, 1988. The place: Bangalore. I was a young photographer with the Indian Express. A Test match between India and New Zealand was in progress at the Karnataka State Cricket Association grounds, and Hadlee was just one wicket short of a world record. And I was determined to capture that memorable moment.

I don't know if Hadlee was tense that day, but I certainly was, especially when I saw my colleagues from other newspapers with their fancy 600 mm lenses. (The digital revolution was well into the future!) I only had one lens, a 400 mm with which I could frame Hadlee's back as he bowled, the wicket-keeper, and three slip fielders. I was praying that the action should not go out of frame.

Being young and foolish, I advised hard-nosed veterans that with their bigger tele-lenses, their frames would be tight and short and they might miss the action. As gratitude, I got plenty of dirty looks for unsolicited advice.

Whenever Hadlee bowled, I clicked each and every ball, evoking derisive laughter from the other photographers, who thought I was wasting film. I did not have a motor winding gadget for my camera, and had to wind the film after each click. It was all a bit humiliating.

My moment came when the Indian batsman Arun Lal faced Hadlee who had his back to my camera. Lal snicked the ball and was caught at third slip by Chris Kuggeleijn. I had captured, for the first time in my life, a world record being created! It was Hadlee's 374th Test wicket and I was the only photographer who had the picture.

The next day I was accosted by a photographer couple from New Zealand who said they had come all the way from their country to get this picture but had missed it. They also told me Hadlee wanted a copy of my photograph.

“If you get me an autograph from him, I'll give the picture,” I told them.

They agreed.

I went with copies of the photograph to Hadlee's hotel and the couple introduced me to him.

“Thank you for capturing the special moment,” Hadlee wrote on the photograph. Then Kuggeleijn rushed into the room saying he too wanted a signed photograph.

Twenty-five years later, I met Sir Richard at Friday's press conference. The great man remembered. “Yes,” he said, “You got it from a top angle, it has become history.”

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