Cricket in the time of telegrams

A senior BCCI hand recalls all the telegrams sent to Indian cricketers over the years.

File Picture: Australian cricketer Don Bradman (1908 - 2001) receives a telegram on the pitch during a match. India’s 163-year tryst with telegram services came to an end on Sunday, the unique method of conveying a message with limited number of words running its course. Many used to see it as a harbinger of bad news, but for the Board of Cricket of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), it used to be the prime means to usher in joy and excitement. There was a time when the news of selecting a player to the India team was conveyed through the patch of paper in the postman’s hand, a world away from the mobile phones, SMSes and e-mails.

Sitaram Tambe, an office assistant at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) from the time the service was frequently used, took a nostalgic trip. “Those days we had a system of informing the players and their respective association through telegrams before sending the official letter through post so that they can get ready for the camp,” he said.

“I used to personally go to the telegraph office and send the messages. I have sent selection telegrams to Kapil Dev, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Erapalli Prasanna, Bishan Singh Bedi, Srinivas Venkatraghavan, Mohinder Amarnath, Chetan Chauhan and many other players,” said Tambe, taking his time to recall as many names as he could.

The BCCI used to dispatch all their telegrams from the Central Telegraph Office, located not very far from its current office at the Wankhede Stadium and at the Cricket Club of India before that.

Even news of the national team’s progress on tours abroad used to be first dispatched through telegrams.

The board stopped using telegrams in the 1980s, when the service lost out to fax, and the phone when the telecom revolution set in.

“Looking back at those days, I feel nostalgic now. I was young and used to run to dispatch the telegrams and come back to office for my next errand,” says Tambe, a BCCI employee since 1969.