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STALWARTS The Misra brothers
STALWARTS The Misra brothers

The Misra brothers have a tête-à-tête on the days that were

There is a touch of aristocracy in everything they do. Be it in tennis, which they played during their hey days from 1956-81, or now handling their respective businesses. They are none other than the famous brother duo of Indian tennis - Shiv Prakash Misra (64) and Shiv Shanker Misra (62).Like many stars of yesteryears, the Misra's made their mark in an era when there was neither big money nor the media glare in the sport. "I got £100 (a pound was equal to Rs. 13.50 then) for the entire fortnight at Wimbledon. Now a qualifier gets more than that for every win in the preliminary rounds," says the ever-smiling S.P. Misra. Incidentally S.P was involved in one of the longest games in the U.S. Open history when he out-slugged Aguimo Ernest of Chile in the second round in a match lasting a full five hours with the final set score reading 14-12. "The togetherness we shared in those days when a group of about 40 Indian players travelled together throughout the country on the Indian circuit is missing now," recalls S.S Misra. How difficult or easy was it for them to be a doubles pair? "Honestly, I only had one powerful stroke - the forehand. But, S.P has not only a lethal backhand but also a classier cross-court game," acknowledges S.S Misra. Significantly, even now these two gentlemen recall with a sense of gratitude how Mohd Hussain initiated them into the sport. "We owe whatever we are to him and to our father Jai Narayan Misra," they say in unison. But it has not been all roses for these stalwarts of yesteryears. The tinge of disappointment is evident when S.S Misra recalls how he was refused the no-objection letter from higher officials in 1967 to take part in Wimbledon. "It remained a dream," says a dejected S.S Misra. There was something for him to cheer about as his son Akshat Misra went on to play Junior Davis Cup before a stomach surgery cut short his career. S.S Misra still treasures the entry form for the 1967 Wimbledon championship which also indicates how much he wanted to be there at the Mecca of world tennis. Interestingly, he also treasures the Rs.250 purse he got for winning the Western India championship long back. "I did not want to spend it. It was so special," he says with a justifiable sense of pride.For the most well-known tennis family of Hyderabad, the high-point was when they got the better of Premjit Lall and Jaideep Mukherjea in the South India championship semi-finals 6-2, 6-2 only to lose out to a Romanian pair in the final. "The whole crowd was expecting them (Lall and Mukherjea) in the finals but we played our best tennis on that day," recalls S.P Misra, who played in the Davis Cup from 1964-70 with an all-win record in 18 singles and doubles matches. What was the most enthralling sight for them? "Ramanathan Krishnan's game. He made the sport look so easy. For me, going to East Africa with him was in itself an education," says SS. For SP, Krishnan was like an institution. And, this is a subject that hurts them the most - the fact that there are not too many gentlemen in many sports now. "Sports badly needs characters who lift the spirit of the game," they say. What exactly do they feel about the sport now? "Frankly, the most painful sight is the tremendous pressure exerted on the kids. The parents and coaches should be realistic and not too ambitious," the Misras said. "Sania Mirza has given a new dimension to women's tennis in India and even in Asia. Should go a long way," is their compliment for Sania Mirza.Interestingly, the two never combined for the Indian team or even in the Senior Nationals but won almost everything else at stake at home. The romance with the sport continues for S.P Misra. He is a national selector and also busy giving invaluable tips to needy youngsters like Vishnuvardhan. To put it simply, he is like the late M.L Jaisimha was to cricket - always approachable, articulate and never putting on any airs despite having achieved so much. But for the younger brother - SS , there are only two things which fascinate him - tennis and cinema. Ask any Hyderabadi who loves to watch English movies about a good theatre and the first name that comes to his mind is Sangeet theatre which is run by S.S Misra. He brought the best of Hollywood films for the first time to the city (declining more lucrative offers from language films). SS's face lights up as he discusses his dream project of converting the Sangeet Theatre premises into a world class multiplex. The duo stands out for their perfection in whatever they do. They are a perfect illustration of the famous Hyderabadi generosity and hospitality.V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

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