BEYOND CRICKET, A LIFE IN MANY WORLDS
Authored by: C.D. Gopinath with V Ramnarayan
Price: Rs 1500
Chingleput Doraikannu Gopinath may be known first and foremost as an international cricketer having played eight Tests. He is the only surviving member of the Indian team that notched up its first victory in Test cricket – against England at Chapauk in February 1952. It was Gopinath who took the final catch to dismiss Brian Statham off Vinoo Mankad that heralded the victory. That ball is now his prized possession.
But then, his autobiography, written in collaboration with well-known writer and translator V. Ramnarayan, a former first-class cricketer, is not just about cricket. Gopinath has been a man of many facets and interests and has lived life to the full. He has had had a long and eventful innings full of enterprise and adventure and at 93 is still with us.
Gopinath was a tower of strength to Madras and South Zone in the 1950s and early 1960s with his sterling batsmanship. He combined style and substance but the fact remains that he could not command a regular lace in the Indian team of the 1950s in the face of intense competition. But there are other reasons too for his fragmented Test career and Gopinath pulls no punches in talking about them. He blames Vijay Hazare, the captain on the 1952 tour of England, for treating him shabbily following a misunderstanding. Thereafter, he was always going in at No. 8 and so got virtually no opportunities to showcase his batting. So serious was the misunderstanding that Gopinath withdrew from the team to tour West Indies the following year when he came to know that Hazare was again the captain.
Gopinath had a comparatively short first-class career due to business commitments. More than the impressive figures, it was his elegant batsmanship that caught the eye. A cultivated stylist, Gopinath was an elegant right-hander who charmed the ball away from the fielders. He played pace and spin with equal felicity and old-timers still recall with a glint in their eyes his majestic 175 made for South Zone against the New Zealanders on their 1955-56 visit.
The book also has several chapters that will appeal to lovers of hunting, wild life, fishing, rowing and travel. Gopinath, a multi-dimensional personality, more than dabbled in all these pursuits even as he continued to be a successful businessman and chairman of Gordon Woodroffe with which his name is indissolubly linked.
The book is divided into two parts. Part I, “In V. Ramnarayan’s words”, wherein the writer extols Gopinath’s virtues as a cricketer, selector and as a person. As he says, “two things stand out throughout Gopinath’s life and career – the values of honesty and ethics he imbibed from his parents and the ability to forge lifelong friendships.” Part II, “In Gopinath’s words”, has him relating events of his life as a cricketer and selector, but of equal interest are accounts of his personal and professional life which he relates with great candour and humour. His long association with Gordon Woodroffe, his work in shipping, his efforts in pioneering containers through OCL and his adventures among wild life which will garner a lot of attention for Gopinath is widely travelled.
The honours that have come Gopinath’s way are testimony to his standing in society as an erudite, endearing and upright personality. He became chairman of Gordon Woodroffe in 1971, the first Indian to take over the running of the 120-year-old British company. He also served as honorary consul for Norway. During 1976-77, he was the sheriff of Madras. He also served as deputy chairman of ASSOCHAM.
An accomplished hunter, Gopinath writes candidly about his adventures the world over and the close encounters he has had with tigers, leopards and elephants. Of particular interest is the chapter, African Safari. As he says, “I have spent many hours observing animals and birds and have been amazed at their intelligence and the manner in which they capture their prey. I always tell people don’t ever say ‘bird brain’. Birds seem to have more grey cells than many of us.” Later in life, he took to fishing and he tells us about the joys of angling and how he and his wife Comala have fished all over the world.
According to Gopinath, “my cardinal rule in life is never to judge anyone – even if I find the actions of some people perplexing – without knowing the circumstances and the pressure that forced them to act in that manner.” He also speaks about his firm belief in destiny. “I am convinced that the life of every individual is pre-ordained. No one can change his life from what is already set for him and no amount of effort can change whatever is pre-ordained for him.” These attitudes have stood him in good stead both during his cricketing and professional career.
(Reviewed by Partab Ramchand. The writer is a veteran sports writer who spent his career working for The Indian Express and The Telegraph and Sportsworld.)