gradually formed a club cricket team in Kissan
which had players drawn from the UB Group
companies. They had their nets at the St. Joseph's
Indian High School grounds, right opposite the UB
beer distillery. The team figured in KSCA's state
fifth division league. Sharad, on the strength of
his being the president of the KSCA-affiliated
Kissan Cricket Club, received complimentary passes
for big matches staged at the KSCA Stadium. He took
Rahul to all the Ranji Trophy matches from the time
his son was just two years old.
"Over the years I took Rahul along with his friends
in the locality and later my younger son Vijay. The
other children used to lose interest in watching
the games and be more excited by the snacks, soft
drinks and food. But Rahul was glued to the game.
He would want to know the name of each batsman,
bowler and fielder and kept asking questions about
the game. Slowly I realised that his interest in
the game was much higher than that of the other
children and I started taking only him to the
matches,'' said Sharad.
By the late 70s when Rahul could recognise
cricketers on his own, he was sold on India's two
erstwhile master batsmen Sunil Gavaskar and GR
Vishwanath. He used to ask his father to invite
them home. Of course Sharad tried, without success.
But he managed to get photographs of Gavaskar
posing with Rahul and Vijay. This made Rahul a
bigger fan of Gavaskar and his school of classical
This apart, Sharad, through Rahul's formative
years, kept drilling into him that his wicket was
never to be gifted away. Another lesson that his
father taught him was not to play strokes that
would dismiss him. Thus with his then role model
Gavaskar playing percentage cricket, his father
drilling the same lessons into him at home and his
coach Keki Tarapore feeding him more of the same at
nets, Rahul was totally sold to the idea of wearing
down the opposition.
Rahul's parents also laid down parameters for his
continuing with the game. They insisted that he
could play the game only as long as he did well in
studies. A first class was the bare minimum they
"I told him that he should study when not playing.
He should not while away the time. Also we kept
telling him that whatever task he took up he should
complete it. We encouraged him to play cricket but
on the condition that his studies would never
suffer,' said Sharad.
These conditions had an amazing impact on Rahul.
Blessed as he was with the ability to
compartmentalise tasks, Rahul, like his mother,
reveled in multi-tasking. His school friends speak
in awe of his ability to study in a crowded bus
each morning. There would be only standing room in
the bus. Rahul would cling on to the vertical bar
in the bus and read his school books unmindful of
the din around him. He would get off the bus and
straight away head for the nets. In the evening he
would repeat this studying performance on the bus.
Rahul's ability to stay focused on whatever he had
on hand won him great praise from his teachers. It
is a trait that he took with success to the cricket
"I remember speaking to Sister Monica of St
Anthony's School where Rahul did his primary
schooling. Of all the students she recalled his
involvement and commitment in everything he did
even at that age. The teachers in my school too
were all unanimous in giving him permission to play
cricket. They all spoke of his focus and
dedication. That impressed me, '' said Fr Coelho,
his principal at St Joseph's Boys High School.
Rahul's success at the Under-15 and Under-17 levels
of inter-state cricket brought him quick
recognition. At the age of 16, he went on a private
cricket tour to England. That tour was sponsored
partly by Kingfisher (United Breweries). There were
a number of talented youngsters on that tour.
Besides, former Test player Roger Binny and state
left-arm spinner Prakash Rathod, who were both in
England at that time, played a few matches for the
On that tour, Sujith Somasundar was Rahul's room
mate. Sujith bowled a bit of medium pace and was a
promising opening batsman. He got to play in quite
a few matches and with a fair degree of success.
Rahul, however, was yet to establish himself as a
frontline batsman. He played in only a few matches
and did not do too well.
With things not going well for Rahul on that tour,
he became more intense and tried all the harder.
"Rahul used to be in a world of his own in England.
We were two of the youngest in that team which had
a good mix of youngsters, experienced league
players and veterans. Rahul was so obsessed with
the game that he would walk about and play
imaginary shots all the time. Even when we were on
the street or in any place other than a ground,
Rahul would be thinking only about batting and play
imaginary shots. In the night he would cry in the
room as he recalled his being dropped from that
day's playing eleven or failing with the bat. He
wanted to get maximum out of the tour, but felt he
was not getting anything,'' said Sujith.
This habit of Rahul's to play imaginary cricketing
strokes had become something of a joke among his
friends and family members. On one occasion, in
Bangalore, he was en route from residence to
airport to drop his cousin's father-in-law, S
Viswam, a well-known Delhi journalist who had
worked with The Statesman and Deccan Herald
newspapers. Viswam, on reaching Delhi called up
Rahul's father and told him that he had seen
`cricket-natyam' being enacted at the airport that
Apparently, Rahul, while awaiting the departure
call for Viswam's flight, was unmindful of the
amused looks he was getting from others in the
airport and went about playing his imaginary front
foot defence, back foot defence, drives, cuts,
pulls and sweep shots - movements that Viswam
referred to as `cricket-natyam' (a take-off on
Bharatanatyam, a well known form of Indian
By the time Rahul moved to St. Joseph's College of
Commerce his obsession with cricket was matched
only by his relentless studying habits. In a way he
seemed to live a Jekyll and Hyde role. Most of the
year, when he played cricket, his friends were the
Fazal Khaleels and the Sujit Somasundars, boys who
went through the KSCA cricket system with him. But
off the field and closer to the annual examinations
a different set of students were his companions -
students for whom academic excellence was the only
thing. Amazingly Rahul juggled with both aspects of
his life superbly.