It was a day of nostalgia as former India and Delhi cricketers got together to play an exhibition match to mark the 80th birth anniversary of their coach Gurcharan Singh.
It wasn’t just another 20-over-a-side contest. It was to honour and celebrate the life and principles of a coach who breathed cricket.
Dressed smartly, as always, in a relaxed-fit trouser and shirt, Gurcharan gave the occasional smile as he heard his former students discuss ways to keep the growing bulge under control. Even at 80, Gurcharan has never had to really bother about such stuff.
A man of very little words, Gurcharan was the second coach in the country to win the prestigious Dronacharya for his contribution to the game of cricket. While his personal career didn’t flourish as he would have liked to, it was as a coach that he found his true calling and won accolades. He produced 12 international cricketers and over a hundred domestic players — from Kirti Azad to Ajay Jadeja, Maninder Singh to the more recent Murali Karthik, he had shaped their careers and touched their lives.
“He was our coach and guru for life,” echoed many who had come to revel in the nostalgia. “I remember I wanted to leave cricket and sir came to my home on his bike to pick me up,” recalled Maninder Singh, the former India and Delhi spinner.
Such anecdotes abound the astonishing coaching career of Gurcharan for whom discipline on the field and in life was more of a priority.
Sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s dismissal brought Gurcharan to the crease. Azad himself put the straps on the grand old man as he prepared to get on to the pitch. As Sonowal saluted the veteran, his students, past and present, gave him a guard of honour before he scratched the popping crease to take strike. And fittingly, it was Gurcharan who hit the winning runs for Kirti Azad XI.