Mumbai cricket lost two stalwarts on Tuesday – Gopal Krishna Menon, 93, the veteran journalist and cricketer Prakash Puranik, 69.
Both served Shivaji Park Gymkhana (SPG) with distinction. Menon played as well as helped out as an administrator while Puranik was part of SPG’s Kanga League ‘A’ division team in 1977.
GK or George, as he was known to friends, was manager of the 1952-53 Bombay University team that won the Rohinton Baria Trophy. That side included future Test players like Chandu Patankar, Nari Contractor, Ramnath Kenny, Naren Tamhane and GR Sunderam. Menon is also credited by ex-Mumbai batsman Vilas Godbole as the one who spotted Ramakant Desai, India’s fast bowling torchbearer of the 1950s and 1960s.
World Cup 1983 star Balvinder Singh Sandhu emphasised on Tuesday that Menon was a cricket writer who knew the game well and had “a good eye for talent.” Sandhu was in for another shock later in the day when he heard about the demise of Puranik, who collapsed while shopping in Dadar. Nicknamed Fighter, Puranik took Sandhu and Ravi Shastri on numerous tours to play matches for Garden Silk Mills in the 1970s. “He took Ballu [Sandhu] and me to play cricket in some unheard of places,” Shastri told mid-day, while Sandhu recalled how combative Puranik was on the field but a “gem” off it.
All-rounder Puranik, according to his ex-Tata Electric and Cricket Club of India (CCI) teammate Hemant Kenkre, could bowl medium pace, leg-spin and off-spin. “He bowled to Geoff Boycott in the CCI nets before the 1981-82 Test series and I remember him clean-bowling the master batsman first ball and then troubling him no end during that session. Boycott was most confused and angry with himself,” recalled Kenkre.
On CCI’s 1981-82 tour of Australia, Puranik and Kenkre put on a match-winning stand at Adelaide. When the hosts decided to present Puranik with a man-of-the-match memento, he said it should be shared, considering Kenkre’s contribution in the win.
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