Cricket

Gentleman’s collection: D.N. Raghavendra Rao owns a treasure trove of cricket memorabilia

D.N. Raghavendra Rao.

D.N. Raghavendra Rao.   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

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D.N. Raghavendra Rao’s collections include letters, photos and 1,300 articles autographed by legends like Don Bradman, Sunil Gavaskar and more

It is an enviable world for a cricket-crazy fan. A collection of 1,300 articles, all bearing signatures of the subjects. Twenty-five albums of 50 pages each, storing autographed photos of some of the greatest names the game has known. Letters from the likes of Don Bradman and Sunil Gavaskar, all arranged in chronological order. For D.N. Raghavendra Rao, a Bengaluru-based collector of cricket memorabilia, this has been a 69-year-old journey of love.

Rao was 11 when he wrote his first letter to a cricketer — CR Rangachari. His father, DR Narasinga Rao, a District Judge, told him to be “polite” when writing to the cricketers. His request for an autograph would be accompanied with a self-addressed stamped envelope. “I have never been disappointed,” says Rao, even though sometimes the responses came late. Recently, the West Indian great Brian Lara wrote back to him. “After six months,” Rao chuckles. His first West Indian “prey”, however, was the great Sir Frank Worrell.

From Raghavendra Rao's collection.

From Raghavendra Rao's collection.   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

What a “thrill” it was for the now 80-year-old when Bradman responded to his request promptly. His letter arrived in September 1982 and Rao considers it a “rare treasure.” Bradman’s reply triggered his love for seeking autographs from cricketers all over the world. Gradually, he added Len Hutton, Denis Compton, Keith Miller, Neil Harvey, Richie Benaud to his list of “conquests.” Indian greats — Lala Amarnath, CK Nayudu, Vijay Hazare, Vijay Merchant, Vijay Manrekar, GR Viswanath — also embellish his collections.

From Raghavendra Rao's collection.

From Raghavendra Rao's collection.   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

Of all these, Rao remembers how difficult a feat reaching out to Harold Larwood was. The address he put was Harold Larwood, former England cricketer, residing in Radwick, suburb of Sydney…. And yet somehow, “I got a reply from him,” he says. Cricketers have been an integral part of his life. “I have passion for the game and respect for those who play it. I love them because they take the time and trouble to sign the articles and photos and post them.” A majority of the articles are from The Hindu and Sportstar.

BENGALURU, KARNATAKA, 03/09/2019: D. N. Raghavendra Rao, 70 years old, who has spent many years in collecting cricket memorabilia (especially articles and signatures), showing some of his collections at his residence, in Bengaluru, on September 03, 2019.
Photo: K Murali Kumar

BENGALURU, KARNATAKA, 03/09/2019: D. N. Raghavendra Rao, 70 years old, who has spent many years in collecting cricket memorabilia (especially articles and signatures), showing some of his collections at his residence, in Bengaluru, on September 03, 2019. Photo: K Murali Kumar   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

Having started this wonderful association with cricket in 1950, Rao has some fascinating tales to share. “I got the group picture of Bradman’s 1948 Invincibles from All Sport (now Getty Images) with just one request. I got the address from an autographed photo that Merv Hughes sent me as a bonus. It was so kind of them (Hughes and Getty).” And then he collected the autographs of some Invincible team members: Bill Brown, Arthur Morris, Neil Harvey, Sam Loxton and Keith Miller, by writing to them individually.

He also values the replies from Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble. Sadly, the current crop of cricketers is not high on his list. “I do seek their autographs but through friends. Where do they have time to respond to letters?”

His prize possession is a reply from Australian leg-spinner Bill O’Reilly, who wrote back, “Your sugar-coated pen should be put to use in diplomatic affairs of state.” He has been assisted in preserving these priceless assets by wife Vidyullata, son Amar and daughter Roopa. Needless to say, he is extremely “possessive” of his treasures and keeps them away from prying eyes. “In an almirah,” he signs off, laughing.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 3:08:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/gentlemans-collection-dn-raghavendra-rao-owns-a-treasure-trove-of-cricket-memorabilia/article29501910.ece

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