Confessions of an old timer

Catching up with Deepak Shodhan, now 84.

RH 'Deepak' Shodhan has a curious Test record.

In 1952, he went out to bat against Pakistan in the Kolkata Test with India 179-6 in reply to their arch rivals' score of 257. It was Shodhan's Test debut. He batted at No. 8, scored 110, and was the last man out having ensured India a game-saving lead.

The left-hander was hailed as a rising star. Instead, he played just two more Tests, falling prey to the game of chess that is national selection. He finished with a batting average of 60 from his four Test innings.

Wisden India's Anand Vasu caught up with Shodhan, now 84, at his Ahmedabad residence. An excerpt from their conversation:

When you listen to Shodhan speak of playing just three Tests, ending with a batting average of 60.55 and still not being bitter, it’s difficult to understand the gripes of modern-day cricketers. The hardships players endured back in those days were very real – with the Test team having to travel two-and-a-half days by train from Mumbai to Kolkata, for example. Or the fact that they were paid Rs 200 for the game, and had to fork out from their own pockets for all incidentals, starting with laundry. “But when we travelled abroad, we used to get a small extra allowance called ‘smoke money’,” said Shodhan. “That would vary from place to place, but it was a little bit extra, maybe a couple of pounds, and we thought it was a treat.”

Having lived and played in a different era, Shodhan does not grudge today’s stars their earnings. “You must remember we did not play the game for money or love. Anyone who says that is not being honest,” said Shodhan. “We played cricket for the country. That was it. But those were terrible times. I know so many cricketers who fell in tough times. These days, thanks to the Board of Control for Cricket in India, players don’t have to beg. There’s nothing worse than the sight of a Test cricketer having to beg.”