SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: After three days of parsimonious one-paragraph obituaries, the tributes have started coming in for Dicky Rutnagar, the Bombay-born cricket and squash correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, London, who passed away on Friday, 20 June 2013, at the age of 82.
Rutnagur, who covered 300 Test matches before he retired in 2005, belonged to the “old school” of cricket writers who believed in reporting what took place on the field.
Nicknamed “Kores” for the number of carbon copies he took of his reports to file for various newspapers Rutnagur’s favourite two words were “bloody” and “bastard”.
In The Hindu, where Rutnagur’s pieces often appeared, the veteran cricket and music writer Raju Bharatan of the now-defunct The Illustrated Weekly of India, calls Rutnagar the Zubin Mehta of cricket writing.
“Dicky’s breakthrough in journalism came as the illustrious Hindustan Times editor, S. Mulgaonkar, handpicked him to report Test cricket, at home and abroad, replacing Berry Sarbadhikary….
“His roaming spirit made him the exemplary freelance. No one enlivened the pressbox more with his puckish presence. As one Palsule from a vernacular paper kept importuning Dicky for return of a sum, his response was vintage Rutnagur: “If you ask for your money one more time, I will never borrow from you again!”
In The Telegraph, Calcutta, Amit Roy writes of how Rutnagur made the jump to the British press.
“In 1966, Dicky arrived in England with an agreement to work every day during the summer covering county games for The Daily Telegraph and then disappear abroad for the winter for Test matches.”
As if to live to up to C.L.R. James‘ famous line “What do they know of cricket who only cricket know,” Rutnagur, like his compatriot K.N. Prabhu of The Times of India, had an ear for classical music.
“I would say that cricket has been almost – almost – all consuming. But I am very fond of classical music – and jazz. Mozart and Rachmaninov, Tsaichovsky, and latterly in the last few weeks I have been listening to a lot of Beethoven.”
Like a good Parsi, Rutnagur believed in telling it like it is, sans political correctness. He said cricket writing had come a long way: From Cardus to Kotnis.
In Mid-Day, the former Hindu cricket writer, R. Mohan, reminisced:
“Walking into the Indian dressing room with him on the morning of the first ever Test match in Ahmedabad, Dicky came up with the best joke on the Indian team I had heard in a long time.
“Looking at all the Sardars sitting around – Sidhu, Sandhu, Maninder, Gursharan – Dicky came up with – Sorry, I thought this was the Indian dressing room, not the Motibagh taxi stand.’”
Amit Roy writes that Rutnagur believed the authorities at Lord’s were right to apply a strict dress code – tie and jacket for men; no jeans or trainers; and for women, no cleavage on display.
“We” – meaning men – “take the trouble to dress properly,” he said. “The least women could do was adopt the same code.”
Rutnagur wrote two books, Test Commentary (India v England, 1976-77) and Khans Unlimited (a history of squash in Pakistan).
Photograph: courtesy Mid-Day
Read a Dicky Rutnagur report: Silencing the Calypso