NEW DELHI — Rajinder Pal, who passed away in Dehradun May 9, was a firebrand cricketer. He would always say that no cricketer should be treated like he was and he would fight for a deserving player.
If ever there was a motivational leader it was Rajinder Pal, who was so spirited.
Pali to friends and Pal 'Saab' to younger cricketers, he played just one Test in an era when the spinners used the new ball from one end. Fast bowlers were used to take the shine off the ball in the couple of overs they bowled.
In his only Test against Mike Smith's England team he shared the new ball with M L Jaisimha, who bowled just three overs. Another debutant Bhagwat Chandrasekhar bowled 40 overs to take four wickets, left-arm Salim Durrani got three wickets in his 38 overs and Chandu Borde, who was a regular leg-spinner those days, bowled 34 overs.
Pali bowled 11 steady overs in the first innings without getting a wicket on a sluggish Brabourne Stadium pitch and bowled two overs in the second innings.
He made no secret of his displeasure at not getting a few more overs on a track England played four pacers and two spinners! In that Test his Delhi and Punjab teammate Vijay Mehra also played as an opening batsman.
After his playing days were over with Delhi, Punjab and Haryana, he was back at Kotla where for a number of years he was the curator when his friend and captain Manmohan Sood was Secretary at the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).
After spending a few years as head coach of an academy, he shifted to Dehradun. Even there he was not resting, he was fighting with the cricket board and in the courts for the affiliation for Uttarkhand Cricket Association.
Wherever he went he carried huge files of court papers and representation to the board.
His biggest disappointment was that talented youngsters in Uttarakhand were denied the opportunity of playing first-class cricket. He would be the happiest man up there the day the Uttarakhand imbroglio is sorted out.
He had a passion for not only cricket but every sport. As sport in-charge and Public Relations Officer of State Bank of Patiala, he fielded a fighting table tennis team in the Delhi State Table Tennis League, himself cheering the youngsters at every match. Those were the days when the Delhi TT league used to attract big crowds at the Talkatora indoor stadium.
Pali was fond of interacting with young cricketers and Kapil Dev spent some time picking his brains before he went on his first tour to England. Kapil publicly acknowledged how he benefited from talking to Pali.
Like all good old-timers he had some hilarious stories but most of them not for public consumption!
Pali was always on the side of the players, but he was too outspoken for his own comfort.