Lata ji and her love for cricket: When Nightingale of India rescued BCCI post 83 win

The 92-year old singer was put on ventilator on Saturday after her health deteriorated, before she passed away on Sunday morning

New Delhi: When Kapil Dev lifted the World Cup at the Lord's balcony, the erstwhile BCCI president and one of the powerful ministers in the Indira Gandhi cabinet, late NKP Salve had a different worry.

It was still some years to go for economic liberalization and an astute businessman like Jagmohan Dalmiya's foresight to turn cricket into an industry.

Kapil's Devils needed to be celebrated but the BCCI, which currently is looking at USD 5 billion television contract, barely paid its cricketers a daily allowance of 20 pounds.

Salve had to turn to his 'Man Friday' and Indian cricket's 'one stop Encyclopedia' Raj Singh Dungarpur for a solution to be able to reward the players for such an achievement.

'Raj bhai', as Dungarpur was known in Indian cricket circle, decided that the only way was to request his close friend and one of country's biggest cricket fans Lata Mangeshkar to do a pro-bono concert in the national capital's Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium.

The IG was packed to capacity as 'Lata ji' did a near two hour programme.

The event ensured that BCCI collected enough money and each of the 14 members got Rs 1 lakh each as cash award.

"It was a very decent sum in those days. We would otherwise save up tour money and daily allowance for that month and it came to barely Rs 60,000," Sunil Valson recollected while speaking to PTI.

"I remember some people said we will give you Rs 5000, some said Rs 10,000 and it was very disrespectful at times. But then Lata ji sang in that concert. What a function it was and one of the most memorable evenings to watch her sing live," Valson said.

The BCCI and more so Dungarpur never forgot how 'Lata ji' saved Indian cricket from sheer embarrassment just because of her pristine love for the 'Gentleman's game'.

As a mark of respect, the BCCI till her death kept two complimentary VIP tickets allocated at any Indian stadium for her, where India played an international match.

"Just like we have quota for each match (before COVID era) for sponsors, state associations, there are two tickets at every cricket match for Lata ji," a senior BCCI official informed.

The Indian cricketers wore a black armband and also observed two minutes silence as a mark of respect for the departed soul.

The Mangeshkars were really cricket fans but one of the finest chroniclers of Mumbai cricket, senior journalist Makarand Waingankar recalls the days in 60s when Lata Mangeshkar was a regular visitor at the CCI Stadium and later at the Wankhede Stadium in 70s and 80s.

"Lata ji and her brother music composer Hridaynath Mangeshkar were regulars at Test matches held at Brabourne Stadium. Later through the 70s she would hardly miss any game even with such busy recording schedule," Waingankar, who was a young journalist back then, recalled.

Mangeshkar would sit alongside Dungarpur and former Mumbai legend and Test opener Madhav Apte and watch the proceedings.

There is an old video of Mangeshkar also watching an India versus West Indies Test match in Chennai, where she must have gone for a recording back in 70s.

She was very close to all Mumbai cricketers like Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar and Sachin Tendulkar, who spoke about her with unmatchable humility and mother like respect.

She would often drop in at the Cricket Club of India and enjoy cricketing discussion in the company of Dungarpur and another distinguished Test cricketer Hanumant Singh, who was the former's nephew.

Tendulkar would often say that she saw "Maa Saraswati" in Mangeshkar.

It's so poignant that the 'Nightingale of India' left a day after Saraswati Puja.

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