Former all rounder Meher Baba is back in action
Indefatigable spirit! That expression aptly sums up Meher Baba, 56, the gutsy all-rounder of yesteryears who used to play for Andhra and South Zone. For someone who has undergone 35 radiation and five chemotherapy treatments in the last 12 months to ward off the imminent threat of lung tumour, he has every reason to smile .
Believing that God is rewarding him for the values he stood by as a cricketer and a human being, he says, "Self-confidence is the key. I pray to God that I am normal once again." How did it happen? Cricket is all about timing and Meher displayed a great sense of timing in life too, and got the disease detected at an early stage. "I am grateful to Shivlal Yadav (secretary of HCA) for releasing Rs. 50,000 for treatment and taking up my case with BCCI chief Sharad Pawar to sanction another Rs. 3 lakh financial assistance," he says.Cricket pundits of yesteryears had dubbed him the Clive Lloyd of Andhra for his imposing six-foot presence and his murderous assaults on bowlers. Former Hyderabad Ranji star Rajesh Yadav knows it only too well. On one occasion, Meher, after being snubbed at the start of the over in a Ranji match, responded in the only way he could - hitting 6,6,4,6,4 of the next five balls bowled by Rajesh. It was an effort that made Shivlal Yadav ask Rajesh to apologise to Meher. Ravi Shastri learnt from him how to bowl the armer. Meher was one of the India probables for the 1980 tour to New Zealand but was dropped for unknown reasons. But he dismisses these incidents saying that luck never smiled upon him. Meher Baba was one of those cricketers who gave more than one hundred per cent to the team. Even Test star Dilip Doshi had to sit out of the 11 as Meher combined with the likes of V.V. Kumar, Erapalli Prasanna and Salim Durrani for the U-Foam team in domestic invitation tournaments. Meher also had a unique record of winning three consecutive `man of the final' awards in the Moin-ud-Dowla Trophy and had the rare `distinction' of sipping champagne from the original Moin-ud-Dowla Gold Cup thanks to M.L. Jaisimha's special gesture after one of his match-winning efforts.Those were the days when passion for sport transgressed every other aspect of life. Meher Baba's childhood hero was Sir Garfield Sobers. Now confined mostly to indoors, he spends time watching television and sharing his experiences with others. These include the time he clean bowled Jaisimha on the forward push in a Ranji match. And also his trapping of the genius G.R. Viswanath leg before wicket.Fortunately, unlike many of his contemporaries, he is financially comfortable as his son and two daughters are well settled. "I pity cricketers like B. Ram Prasad and Mahendra Kumar. Something has to be done for them," he says. There is a tinge of disappointment when the topic veers to Andhra cricket. Having been a successful coach under trying circumstances, Meher believes that ex-cricketers who made a big impact on the sport should be more involved. "After all, everyone wants to see Andhra rise to the top. Andhra Cricket Association should be open to practical and innovative suggestions," he added.For the time being, Meher Baba is back and will be on the cricket field in a week or two. V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM