Mr. Cricket Administrator. This is how noted cricket writer R. Mohan introduces P. R. Man Singh who has penned a delightful memoir of his cricket journey. Popularly known as Maan Saab, he was famously the manager of the Indian team which won the 1983 World Cup. There has never been a felicitation event of that team without Man Singh being present at the venue.
“Honestly, I cannot think of another Indian who is so thickly involved with cricket globally and his personal museum at his residence is ample testimony to his cricket crazy intensity. He is the warmest cricket person, through and through,” writes former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi in his Foreword for the 356-page book.
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The current India coach, Ravi Shastri, raves about his association with Man Singh. “When we travelled to England for our World Cup campaign in 1983, our support staff was a grand total of One. P. R. ‘Peter’ Man Singh made sure that we didn’t need anyone else. What stood out was his brilliant man-management skills.”
Being a traditionalist, Man Singh begins the book with a sentence that sums up his love for the game. “Cricket is a gentleman’s game, played and administered by gentlemen. In the English language, when somebody plays tricks and does not do an honest job or takes wrong decisions, it is often said `This is not cricket.’
Man Singh is actually called Mr. Cricket and the book is replete with anecdotes from his travels and experience. He writes about the hurdles and sacrifices that marked his cricket. He traces the wonderful times of the game and also comes down harshly on the Hyderabad Cricket Association for its failures at various times.
The feature of the book is his recollection of the 1983 World Cup triumph. Man Singh provides rare insights into the epic triumph with some amazing memories. He also shares his pain of the semifinal loss to England in the 1987 Reliance Cup. He talks about the India-Pakistan match that was scheduled to be played at the Eden Gardens soon after the Reliance Cup final between England and Australia.
The Indian and Pakistan teams, writes Man Singh, had assembled at Kolkata. There was an air of uncertainty about the match being held. “Apparently, there was trouble over the financial aspect of the match and the Pakistanis were asking for more money than what was being offered to them. Some sort of unrest was also brewing in cricket-crazy Calcutta. We were finally told that the match was called off and were handed our return tickets to get back home at the earliest. Azharuddin and I took a car and were escorted to the airport. The moment we got out of the hotel, our car was stoned. Luckily, we were not hit and reached the airport and home safely,” Man Singh remembers.
The book has some delightful anecdotes and details about some Annual General Meetings of the Board that give us a peep into the functioning of the administrators. It is a treat for cricket lovers who value history. Credit to Man Singh for sharing some little-known aspects of Indian cricket.