Cricket and Cottons: Dukes ball owner Dilip Jajodia talks about his Bangalore connection


Dilip Jajodia reminisces about the Bengaluru of the past and his love for the gentleman’s game

The first thing that Dilip Jajodia remembers about Bengaluru of yore is of him getting hit on the mouth by a cricket ball during his boarding school days at the Bishop Cotton’s Boys School in the late 1950s.

“It was one of my very first matches; an old boys match on St. Peter’s Day,” he recollects, “It was a big game. I was fielding at silly point and I couldn’t even see the ball [when it hit]. That put an end to any aspiration I might have had of becoming a cricketer.”

It, however, did little to diminish his love for the game. Six decades on, Jadojia, 74, is the owner of British Cricket Balls Limited that manufactures the much-reputed and widely sold Dukes cricket ball.

“Cricket is like second nature and it has done everything for me,” he insists, “I remember seeing Australian bowler Ray Lindwall in Chennai during my childhood there. Also India opener Pankaj Roy. But I had no idols and at Cottons was where I played. So I always look back at my days in Bangalore. It’s special and it’s in my DNA and makes me think the way I do.”

Jajodia fondly reminisces about those early times spent under the stewardship of Richard James Allen, who played hockey for British India as a goal-keeper in three Olympics (1928, 1932, 1936) and remarkably let in only two goals across the three tournaments.

“He was a fantastic person. A taskmaster, very competitive, but also very fair and taught us to play the game properly. All these [qualities] get into your genes when very young. It goes back to basic education and attitudes to life. When you go abroad it is totally different and challenging but at Cottons the training was very British. So when I moved to England it wasn’t that difficult, because we had the training anyway.”

Jajodia wanted to be a chartered accountant in England but once he realised it wasn’t well-paying, he moved to insurance and ultimately ball manufacturing. “I got my first job in life insurance by saying I played cricket and the general manager was a cricket-loving person!”

“Later, I wanted to do my own business and I spotted that the balls were an issue in England. I started by importing Indian cricket balls but had a problem with their quality. So I found a polish and that led me to being a little bit of an expert. I started doing different things with different polishes and finally I bought British Cricket Balls in 1987.”

Jajodia has since turned his company into one of the world leaders but despite the success abroad, the Cottons connection has remained intact and has also been a source of lifelong friendships. “I remember the 1975 old boys match. They said they had a young chap and he would play for India and all that. I opened the batting and after I was out I just told him while walking back that the bowling seemed to be good.”

“Around 150 runs later, I was sure that I saw one of the most magnificent hundreds ever. That was Brijesh Patel and it was the start of a great friendship, which introduced me to Sunil Gavaskar and a whole generation of Indian players.”

Jajodia was back in 2011 for the 50th anniversary of his class and was again in the city last month to deliver the Gen KS Thimayya Memorial Lecture. Even as the memories have remained undiminished, the city, like for most yesteryear Bangaloreans, is increasingly unrecognisable.

“Our family had a house in Lavelle Road and there were all these very nice small cottages. Now I can't recognise the street. The Bangalore of then was a resort. But progress is progress. You can’t do anything. My school too doesn’t seem to have that many boarders anymore. That’s a bit sad.”

“At first I thought boarding school was horrible. But then as I got older, I thought it was the best thing that could have happened to me. It gave me the first real sense of being empowered. The school produced a couple of Generals, Chiefs of Army Staff and others. There must have been something in the water. We all did well. It was very, very enjoyable.”

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 6:30:44 PM |

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