Very early in the morning today, I got a message from Vijay Dahiya, ex-India Test cricketer and the devoted son-in-law of Kishen Wadhwaney, the dedicated former sports editor of The Indian Express. The redoubtable Wadhu — KRW to the sporting fraternity — was no more…
Only a couple of months ago, Vijay had organised a wonderful evening with Wadhu at his Press Enclave residence. I was in good company of another journalist friend G Rajaraman, who decided to be a fly on the wall and listen to some glorious tales being churned out by Wadhu’s alarmingly fresh memory; from cricket to hockey, to the bane of politics in just about all of India’s sports federations.
We enjoyed every bit of Wadhu’s hospitality, as if he had rewound himself by a few decades. It appeared that he hadn’t been so talkative in a long time. His daughter Sneh and Vijay had taken great care of him, and had moved the senior couple from first floor to ground floor a few days back for matters of very genuine convenience, attention & accessibility. But sadly it didn’t quite work out.
I called Wadhu the ‘bionic man’, for he had to have his knee, shoulder and hip replaced, and also undergo a heart surgery. I’d known him for close to five decades. He was a voracious writer, authoring several books. He also covered the historic Indian tour to South Africa in 1992, and was quite impressed by the facilities there.
Wadhu was a decent medium pacer, but never played for Uttar Pradesh. He would bring his club side from Lucknow for matches in Amritsar, and would play fairly competitively. That is the one edge he might have had over his colleagues in the press box, but he never really gloated about his personal cricket experience. He let his pen/typewriter do that with loads of information and freedom of thought & expression, which is so rare in the modern context. Please bear with me all ye Fourth Estate!
We were friends and foes alike in those days. Wadhu and his close friend late R Sriman of Times of India gave yours truly scathing stick from time to time, but there was never a moment when I questioned their motive/professional deliverance. It made me more determined to create worthy events for my twin critics to be wiser after them! Despite occasional opposing views and him being very critical of my performances, we never had a fallout. And that was the secret of very long lasting friendship.
How can I ever be ungrateful for the backing of Wadhwaney and Sriman over many issues in DDCA and the BCCI. They were never fair-weather friends and knew the strength of their professional courage to take a stand for or against the player-versus-establishment situations. I am inclined to believe that their bosses also knew the worth of independent coverage reaching out to the masses. As in any other walk of life, comparisons are odious. Ditto the Fourth Estate. But I can safely conclude that I am glad my playing days coincided with Wadhu and Sriman at their best with their rickety old typewriters. It didn’t matter that their gadgets were outdated. Their intentions and love for Indian sport were never dilapidated.
Rest in peace, Wadhu. Your presence in the press box was inimitable.
The writer is former India captain