As he paced up and down the stairs of a five-star City hotel,Dharamveer Duggal started to get nervous. Duggal knew that if he could not meet one of his favourite bowlers,Wasim Akram,this time,the ‘autographed ball’ would have to go without the signature of the famous pacer’s autographs.
But then,Akram stepped out and met Duggal in the lobby. Akram also obliged Duggal by signing his name on the ball,which was no ordinary piece of cricket equipment. The shining white ball carried autographs of other legendary pacers like Jeff Thompson,Shoaib Akhtar,Michael Holding,Dennis Lillee,Bret Lee and Glenn McGrath. And with Akram’s autograph,the list of famous pacers was complete. “I had met Akram bhai earlier also. That time I was not carrying this ball with me. He remembered our previous meeting and was happy to sign on the ball. Now this ball has become a cherished property for me,” said a beaming Duggal.
Duggal is a sports-art afficianado: the 53-year-old former journalist has a collection of autographs,souveniers,letters,books,miniature bats that most cricket fanatics would die for. Among the 5000 autographs and 400 hand-written letters from cricketers,the most prized posession is the signed autobiography of Sir Donald Bradman. And,among Duggal’s other favourites are a coin sent by Sir Don’s son to commemorate Sir Don’s birth Centenary,in collaborattion between the Bradman Foundation and Australian Mint.
“Getting that coin was quite emotional for me. He is regarded as the best cricketer of the century. It felt so good,” added Duggal. He has signed autobiographies of Shane Warne,Bradman,Viv Richards and Steve Waugh. He also has a copy of Cricket Alive sent to him by Kerry Packer,the Australian media tycoon and inventor of coloured-clothing cricket.
Duggals craze for the sport started back in 1975,when he went through a cricket magazine. He would write to that magazines editor and find out the addresses of famous cricketers. He would then write letters to the cricketers he loved and also get responses from them. He has written letters to cricketers like Keith Miller,Sachin Tendulkar,Andy Roberts,Sarfaraz Nawaz and got their replies too. But the most defining moment for him was when he met M. Jahangir Khan,also called chirimaar who played for India in the 30s and whose son was the great Pakistan opener Majid Khan. “He gave me a Re 1 note which now is part of my prized possessions,” said Duggal,who is also a cricket statistician.
Duggal has applied to the Guinness Book of Records and also plans to open his own museum in the tricity in the coming years. “I hope to make it to the recordbooks and also have my own museum where I can showcase my collection to the public and educate them about it. We do not have a such concept in North India,but it would be wonderful to have a museum dedicated to the sport,” he said.